Chef Juste Zidelyte thinks her “barsotto” resembles the flavors of a baked potato with sour cream and bacon bits. That is wildly underselling this humble, knock-out starter. Its barley plumped up with a mushroom puree, mimicking the creaminess of risotto crossed with steel-cut oatmeal, topped with dehydrated slices of shiitake (the bacon bits’ doppelganger) with a melting puddle of caraway seed-adorned kastinys. That’s a cultured butter recipe, from Zidelyte’s grandmother, she makes by hand in a clay pot, taking 40 minutes to slowly emulsify sour cream into butter. All diners need to know is that this tangy, salty, creamy, buttery topping is a reason to fly to the Lithuanian countryside and find an adoptive family.
Maple Ave, originally from breakout chef Tim Ma (who decamped for D.C.), is securely in the inventive and capable reins of Zidelyte, as she turns this pocket of a restaurant into a European bistro serving at times funky combinations, like a plate of octopus and pork belly with olives and a soy-brined hardboiled egg, and also the downright only reason to pay for a bread basket: dense slices of baguette more or less boiled in butter, arriving glistening and crunchy. A barramundi is crispy and floating in a duo of contrasting sauces, and a huge lamb shank feels lighter braised in wine and orange and dressed in a peach mostarda. The meal ends with another peek into the chef’s roots, a simple and homey Lithuanian honey layer cake and a glass of Krupnik, Eastern European honey liquor—warming and boozy.
Maple Ave Restaurant
European | $$$
147 Maple Ave. W, Vienna