Washingtonians love to complain about the dearth of great service. Yet, there are a few restaurants where pretty much everyone agrees you’ll find some of the city’s finest hospitality—and Michelin-starred Tail Up Goat in Adams Morgan is one of them. So it’s no surprise that its new little sister restaurant around the corner, Reveler’s Hour, features that same effortless, comfortable, competent service that feels more like a dinner party than a restaurant.
That’s perhaps because each of the three partners—chef Jon Sybert, service manager Jill Tyler and wine guru Bill Jensen—spent time honing their crafts at Komi and Little Serow, two places often lauded for each of the owners’ respective skills. At Reveler’s Hour, the partners showcase the pastas and unusual wines that Tail Up Goat has been known for, but with a slightly more casual vibe.
Wine geeks will love cozying up with the binder full of winemakers depicted on baseball-style trading cards, while casual wine drinkers can rely on a trusty server to walk them through the list and offer tastes.
From the “snacks” section of the menu (which alternates offerings), try the large portion of grilled bar nuts glistening with brown butter and fragrant with rosemary and fennel seed. Cheese and crackers arrive as a plate of crispy flatbread and spiced house-made crackers with a crock of creamy, garlicky dip that tastes great as long as you don’t get hung up on the description of “fancy ‘pimento’ cheese.” There is literally no resemblance to pimento cheese.
Favorite dishes came from the grill: spicy, sweet and smoky pork skewers that taste like bacon and sausage had a baby; and buttery, bittersweet cabbage with rich tomatoes all brightened by an herbal salsa verde. If you have any reservations about ordering a dish starring cabbage, let them go. You won’t be sorry.
Pastas here skew more classic than the memorable cavatelli with octopus ragu that haunts me from Tail Up Goat’s early days. Nevertheless, a pasta alla Norma featuring good-quality tomatoes and silky eggplant is expertly made, and improved with the addition of olives. Beef genovese over garganelli benefits from grilled carrots and “smoky-cheesy breadcrumbs,” but the fancy description melts away when you realize the sauce actually resembles a cross between your mother’s pot roast and an Italian lamb ragu.
Our server is so wonderful that I can’t lie to her when she asks how the dessert was. The lone dessert (offerings are on a rotating menu), a mascarpone semifreddo garnished with nuts, grilled citrus and basil, was too salty and bitter, and we finished it mostly in an effort to figure out how it went so wrong. She listened, thanked us sincerely, took it off the check and sent a manager with a couple of glasses of dessert wine. Honestly, I was happier after the gaffe than I would have been if the dessert had been sublime. Now that’s good service.
The eyes are immediately drawn to the wraparound bar that serves as a central anchor for surrounding tables, shelves lined with wine bottles and a bustling open kitchen toward the back. Diners range from groups of friends catching up to couples celebrating a birthday to a dad in a suit wining and dining solo while his baby munches happily in a highchair.
Wood-roasted cabbage with tomato; pork skewers with spicy honey; pasta alla Norma with mafalde noodles; beef genovese over garganelli pasta // 1775 Columbia Road NW, Washington, DC Open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday; Starters: $5-$16; Entrees: $24-$27
Michael Rafidi, who gained many accolades as executive chef of Arroz, offers his interpretation of Levantine cuisine with Mid-Atlantic influences at Albi in The Yards development. // 1346 Fourth St. SE, Washington, DC
U Street Corridor
Lulu’s Winegarden serves reasonably priced bottles of vino with fancified American fare, but the real draw is the convivial front patio, plus one in back outfitted with a bocce court. // 1940 11th St. NW, Washington, DC
The Daikaya team is at it again, this time with the opening of “wafu” restaurant Tonari, which honors the longtime Japanese culinary tradition of infusing Italian dishes with the flavors of Japan. // 707 Sixth St. NW, Washington, DC