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New Heights


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The website.

Elsewhere in the world, folks are apparently fixated on Roger Clemens' return to the New York Yankees, but here in DC Foodworld we're much more interested in former Firefly chef John Wabeck's return to New Heights, a restaurant that has been considered consistently good but only rarely excellent in its going-on-twenty (?) year run. First reports are that Wabeck's comeback is going much better than Clemens'. As he begins to hammer the menu into his own image, highlights include a lamb carpaccio with tomatoes and cilantro mint chutney, softshells and anything else with an Indian hint to it (the owners, the Singhs, have some influence here).

A bar menu is to be unveiled momentarily and slated to include the truffle fries that were something of a signature at Firefly; the cheeses have been upgraded with fermented curds from Artisanal in New York; and Wabeck -- who doubled as sommelier at his previous gig, is studying for the Master Sommelier exam and who did time in Napa both as a chef (Brix) and barrel washer (Darioush Winery) -- is working on the wine list as well. Look for lots of summer pinks and good well-priced Burgundies to start showing up.

A couple of years back, Wabeck chatted with eGulleters here. My recent conversations with John -- who was once likened to a serial killer by Tony Bourdain -- have been less philosophical and more along the lines of "we're gonna kick some [expletive, deleted] ass." That's a good thing, too.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I've been three times so far and sampled the salad with grapefruit and buttermilk dressing, gravlax with melon, lamb carpaccio, risotto, black bean rillettes, soft shells with vindaloo oil, and the crazy "chicken fried" steak. Not a loser in the bunch. The Chateau Coupe Roses '03 Cuvee Granaxa remains my favorite by-the glass tipple.

ETA: cheese highlights are the Livarot, and the Ossau au Piment d’Espelette.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Its great to see Chef Wabeck back in the saddle where he belongs! I am looking forward to my next DC trip that much more now.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 1 month later...

Washington Post Review.

I'm not one of those who second guesses Sietsema's reviews ("it read like a 2-star, but he gave it three; why?) but I think anyone who reads the review will find it generates more enthusiasm than the rating alone would imply.

And eating there will generate even more enthusiasm. I won't go into detail as I have no notes, and the menu has been revised since my last visit, but the gazpacho, beans and lamb were all exceptional, and I am eager to to drop back in and see what's on the menu for fall.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Lovely bar dinner tonight. I started with a little tomatopalooza: couscous salad with heirlooms, and chilled tomato soup with parmesan croutons. Main was pork with mustard sauce, green beans, tomato bread pudding, and tempura bacon. Tempura bacon is the work of a sick mind's dark imaginings. Drank a bacony, fruit-forward syrah that wasn't on the menu yet. The wine selection is still a work in process.

My new favorite dessert: olive oil cake, pastis anglaise, mint olive oil, almond/pink peppercorn brittle. With a Ricard. Not for the faint of heart, or those who hate licorice.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice wine article, John.

Vichyssoise with smoked salmon was lovely, but the mackeral, oh! The mackeral! If you claim to like fish, you must try the mackeral. It's beautiful and moist with crispy skin and served with pepitas, purslane, and spaghetti squash. Having grown up in the early 70's during the hippie holdover diet revolution, and been subjected to my mother's numerous Diet for a Small Planet-inspired, tasteless vegetarian flings with spaghetti squash, I was convinced that it was of the devil. John Wabeck convinced me otherwise.

I don't remember exactly what I drank, but it sure wasn't Duckhorn Merlot.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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  • 7 months later...

Nice piece in The Washington Post about New Heights' expanding gin list. I've been to the bar and out drinking with the chef and he is as serious about gin as he is about wine and cooking, making the bar an excellent place to drop by for a snootfull or two.

One place where the liquor takes center stage is the Gin Joint, a small bar underneath New Heights Restaurant in Northwest Washington. Chef John Wabeck, a gin connoisseur, has assembled a list of almost two dozen selections, including two versions of the traditional and full-bodied Old Raj; G'Vine, a new, floral French brand made from grape leaves; wonderfully peppery Bluecoat, distilled in Philadelphia; and Damrak, a Dutch spirit with a nose hinting of blood oranges and a smooth, malty body.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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The gin selection at New Heights is unrivaled. I could wish for a more extensive cocktail list, but I will be sipping a lot of 209 and Fever Tree bitter lemon this summer.

The food is more than worthy of consideration, and the bar specials are an excellent value.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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  • 2 months later...

Chef John Wabeck is leaving in a couple of weeks so a group of my wine geek friends wanted to make sure we had one more dinner before he left. As usual, he provided us with a fantastic meal. As one of our group doesn not eat meat, and another seafood, the meals in parenthesis were what they got instead of what the rest of us had.

Attending were:

T-Rep, Winoman, norm herring, Jake (dinwiddie jr.), Pool Boy and myself.

Dinner constisted of

Charred Eggplant and Tomato Soup, Scallion Creme Fraiche

Petit Caesar Salad; Fried Green Totatoes, Smoked Chili Caesar Dressing

Seared Maine Scallops, Spiced Lentil Ragout, Onion Chutney

Eastern Shore Fritto Misto consisting of fried oysters, fried gerkin, and hushpuppy with a wonderful dipping sauce

Colorado Lamb Carpaccio with Three Bean Salad, Old Balsamic, Parmesan Reggiano

(Scottish Smoked Salmon with Sweet-n-Sour Rubarb, Peppered Strawberry Salsa)

Sautted Chesapeake Soft Shell Crab with Potato-Cucumber Raita and Vindaloo Oil

(Grilled Organic Cornish Game Hen with Bacon-Studded Japonica Rice and Red Chili Salsa)

Grilled Meyer Ranch NY Steak with Feta Potato Gratin, Baby Fennel and Olives

(Steamed Atlantic Snapper with Tomato Toast, Baby Fennel, Spanish Garlic Sauce)

Cheese: Blue d'Auvergne, Tomme de Savoie, Garrotxa, Malvarosa, Ardrahan, Epoisses, Valencey, Paddo Classico

Araretti Stuffed Peaches, Amaretto-Raspberry Puree

The wines that John paired the food to were:

2000 Rochioli RRV Pinot Noir

Feminine, nose of roses, sour cherry, smokiness, faint sweetness, fresh jam. Showed very well in the first half of the evening.

2002 Rivers Marie Summa Old Vines Pinot Nori

Sweet with a slightly caramel nose. Some leatheriness, red raspberry, opened up unbelievable as the evening progressed.

2004 Kosta Browne 4-Barrel Pinot Noir

Thick with a dark brown sugaryness at first, slight eucalyptus and chocolate. My son described tasting Chinese pork cahrsiu. I will admit it, I'm a K-B whore, I loved this wine. But if you are not a fan of the big CA PNs, this is not the wine for you.

2003 Karl Lawrence Cabernet Sauv.

Slightly flinty with a red dust note. Lots of fruit. Showing much better than the 2001 at this time. I really enjoyed this wine.

2000 Casanova di Neri Bbrunello

Wonderful nose when opened. Leather and licorice, very dry with a beefy note, a little lead pencil. This showed well early, but faded a bit in the middle before coming back with a meaty and minerally back-end.

1997 Valdicava Brunello

Iodine, blue cheese, roasted nuts (butter and earth), kind of chalky. Serious funk at first, but it blew off after a long long while and had this roasted buttery nut element that was wonderful.

2001 Paul Hobbs To Kalon Cabernet Sauv.

My wine of the night. Zaftig, with tastes of cherry pits, faint dill. A really nice wine, quite large but it had a good core holding things all together and in balance.

2002 Radio Coteau la Neblina Pinot Noir

We shouldn't have inserted this wine here after having the Hobbs, but it was opened on a whim. Sweet, almost cotton candy next to what we'd just finished drinking. It probably should have gone early in the line up.

2003 Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguet Sauternes

Orange peel, lemon oil, cream. Really, really nice.

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Sounds like a great meal. Wither goes Chef Wabeck?

He's giving up cooking and going to drinking full time.

MEN OF STEEL: Having (finally) found a location in Tysons Corner, chefs Jonathan Krinn and Jon Mathieson expect to open a modern American restaurant of their own design this November, and they're bringing in a third chef, John Wabeck, to see that patrons drink as well as they eat.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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