LOOKIN' GOOD: Spring Valley is no one's idea of a dining mecca, but with the recent launch of Dahlia (4849 Massachusetts Ave. NW; 202-364-1004) there's fresh reason to check out that Washington neighborhood for a meal. Tucked in a small shopping center, the newcomer replaces the Greek-themed Melio's and represents the tastes of chef-owner David Scribner, a co-owner of Jetties, a gourmet sandwich maker on Foxhall Road NW, and the former chef at Smith Point in Georgetown.
The menu is focused and light, a fact Scribner attributes to his health-conscious wife, Valerie Green. At Dahlia, "We go through olive oil like you wouldn't believe," says the chef, who also finds room for lots of fish, fruits and vegetables on the Mediterranean bill of fare. At lunch, shaved lamb, dill-spiked yogurt and feta cheese make for a delectable sandwich (the pita bread it's served on is baked right there); dinner runs to roast chicken with minty rice; red snapper treated to a succotash of corn, lima beans and tomatoes; and a soulful veal Bolognese, sweet with carrots and onions, draped over linguine.
Dahlia runs without a general manager. Instead, Scribner used the money for that position to hire two chefs, Nicholas Shinton, who worked with Scribner at Smith Point as well as Felix in Adams Morgan, and T.J. Obias, who returns to the area from the esteemed Campton Place in San Francisco, where he served as pastry chef. The three friends (Shinton and Obias grew up together in Reston) take turns directing traffic in the dining room. Scribner reports "people are comforted by that. We know what the food is" and get the benefit of personal feedback from customers. The unique arrangement also means "we all have our hands in everything."
The abstract nature photographs decorating Dahlia's pale yellow walls? Credit for the art goes to Scribner, who says he snapped the pictures on morning strolls through Chevy Chase and Glover Park when he was working at Smith Point.
Lunch entrees $10-$16; dinner entrees $18-$27.