Ron Tanaka’s off to a nice start at Thally


Ron Tanaka plays a dual role, as chef and co-owner, at the newly opened Thally on Ninth Street NW. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)
September 17, 2013

Ron Tanaka has cooked at New Heights, Cork Wine Bar, CityZen, the late Michel Richard Citronelle, Palena and the Morrison-Clark Inn. The launch of Thally in August marks the first time the chef has enjoyed co-ownership of a restaurant, not to mention an enviable commute.

“I live four blocks away” from the 70-seat retreat in Shaw, says Tanaka.

The name Thally (pronounced TAL-lee) is grounded in the past and the present. It’s a nod to both the neighborhood’s 19th-century Tally-Ho stables and co-owner Sherman Outhuok’s daughter, Thalia. (The third business partner is Paolo Sacco, the restaurateur behind Posto and Tosca.)

Thally is a beaut. Long and narrow, with flashes of aqua and eggplant in its furnishings, the dining room gathers together a granite-topped bar, blackboards attached to old barn-door hardware and lots of brick. Walls display custom vinyl graphics by local artist Matthew Hlubny (look for images from Blagden Alley and Naylor Court therein), who also weaves handsome vintage fonts into the works.

Tanaka’s American menu is similarly sophisticated yet approachable — and concise, with a mere six appetizers and six main courses. A pale green puree of Greek yogurt and cucumber got a warm reception on a recent hot night, as did sauteed rockfish with a pleasing salsa of sweet corn, tarragon and cumin. Grilled pork T-bone landed on our stained-walnut table with a glaze of Dijon mustard, molasses and dark rum. Nice touch on the plate: collard greens zingy with fresh ginger.

Thally’s most intriguing dish might be its crab roulette, a slender wrap filled with delicately sweet peekytoe crab and garnished with cauliflower florets and a vinaigrette tweaked with Old Bay seasoning. The pale golden sleeve around the seafood turns out to be bread that the chef runs through his pasta machine before crisping it in a saute pan.

1316 Ninth St. NW. 202-733-3849. www.thallydc.com. Entrees, $18 to $26.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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