Silo, a Swiss miss/mess


A bright spot: Silo’s hamburger with caramelized onions and French fries. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The best thing about Silo? Getting the check.

That’s not a sentence I’d expected to type, with veteran chef George Vetsch in the kitchen and first-time restaurant owner Reza Akhavan in the dining room. But you would have been eager to call it a wrap, too, if you had been at my table and shared dinner with me that sad night in early January in Mount Vernon Square. What had been billed by Akhavan as “modern American with Swiss and French influences” turned out to be a global mess.

All of the drinks we sipped were too sweet. The crab cake tasted fishy, and the fish — branzino wrapped in a lattice of potatoes — appeared on an ocean of fennel soubise. Finesse evaded every plate, including a first course of frog’s legs overwhelmed by vanilla sauce.

Vetsch has talent. I tasted as much at the beloved luncheonette C.F. Folks and the elegant Oval Room, two of the Swiss native’s many previous places of employment around town. Yet return visits yielded more disappointments: kohlrabi soup that went down like not-very-good fondue; vegetable penne pasta that summons the 1980s; and fritto misto that could double as a sleeping aid, the squid rings are that boring.

Vetsch parted ways with Akhavan recently. “It was best for both of us,” says the owner, who plans to retain sous-chef Calvin di Giovanni. A former sous-chef at Pesce, di Giovanni has been with the restaurant, a simple, industrial box of brick walls and concrete floors, from the start. (Silo denotes both food and industry, the owner says.)

The second-best thing about Silo? The hamburger, served with a cone of squiggly french fries. “Get it with caramelized onions,” a server encourages me, and I bite. Out comes a fat and juicy patty, liberally seasoned with black pepper and bedded in a grilled bun.

Maybe there’s hope for the place.

919 Fifth St. NW. 202-290-2233. silodc.com. Dinner entrees, $14 to $24.

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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