$$$$ ($14 and under)
Tel'Veh photo

Editorial Review

A kitchen that could stand some more heat
By Tom Sietsema
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To tap the best of the freshly minted Tel’veh Cafe & Wine Bar in Mount Vernon Square, you have to spend some quality time with its wine list. Compiled by veteran sommelier and general manager Thierry Lesparre, the book runs to more than 300 labels from around the globe, 35 or so of which are offered by the glass. A temperature- and humidity-controlled dispenser behind the bar keeps opened wines fresh.

To prevent disappointment, you might want to nosh before you drop by this 60-seat, three-meals-a-day endeavor from the owners of Agora, the agreeable ode to mezze in Dupont Circle. Although both restaurants share Ghassan Jarrouj as their chef, Tel’veh is missing a key ingredient in its kitchen: a stove.

The kitchen is “tiny,” explains Ismail Uslu, the director of operations.

The result is a short dinner menu, with the majority of the dishes served chilled (salads, seviche) or room-temperature (olives, charcuterie). That might matter less if what is available was better. Early meals have delivered tuna tartare drowned in sesame oil, scallop seviche topped with what tastes like salsa and a dry ham-and-cheese sandwich that reminds me of something I once ate in the back of a plane. A convection oven barely warms the flatbreads, including what could pass for cardboard scantily dressed with vapid chorizo and goat cheese. No one asks why we leave most of the combination behind.

Crab cake sliders are the relative standouts in this humdrum collection, although even they count a negative: seafood centers so small, the glossy buns become the focal point. A side of creamy slaw made with shaved Brussels sprouts helps fill us up.

The corner restaurant is big, airy and full of light, vaguely nautical and deafening at full tilt. If the assembly-line food doesn’t drive one to drink, the noise might.