Large portions, but minimal flavor
By Tom Sietsema
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012
Pouring grape juice and serving steak frites since late August, Slate Wine Bar + Bistro feels every bit its age. Young and inexperienced, the Glover Park newbie has a pleasant setting going for it but little else.
Order a cocktail and it might take 15 minutes to show up. Tardiness is not the drink’s only flaw; the requested gin gimlet somehow translates into a gin martini. Slate’s menu opens with the expected cheese plates and a dozen snacks that run to “chocolate nibs,” baby corn and (are we in a movie theater?) yogurt-covered raisins.
The rest of the menu is a roll call of generic restaurant dishes. Like every other kitchen right now, Slate spoons out gazpacho. I order the soup because of its promised habanero, but all I taste is unsalted tomato and cilantro. A barge of raw spinach is enough salad for a platoon of Popeyes and also a mess to dress on its rectangular trough. Overcooked roast chicken with watery spinach and frozen french fries has me looking at my watch. More novel, but just as dispiriting, Slate’s meatless paella is a big bowl of arborio rice mixed with peas, bell peppers and Roma tomato slices: basically, a bland rice casserole.
The trencherman portions served in the former Kitchen space only reinforce the food’s flaws.
Owner Elizabeth Banker is a lawyer and former Yahoo executive. The novice restaurateur’s liquid inventory, which includes 20 wines by the glass, focuses on products from wineries with admirable sustainable and organic farming practices. But most of the selections are so obscure and without a proven track record that even professionals will be scratching their heads as they peruse the list. Among the exceptions -- wines you can order with confidence -- is the Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner, which is a value at $58 a bottle.
What’s not (slate) blue is brick in Banker’s cozy, low-ceilinged dining room. Collections of corkscrews dress up the walls and drive home the drinking theme. Eames-style chairs slide into tables covered with linens, rare in new restaurants anymore. The staff is sunny, if not swift.
We do not stay for dessert.
We do go out for a second dinner.