The Washington Post

At Flight Wine Bar, more than 80 wines

Ribs of ash wood extend from the bar area at Flight Wine Bar in Penn Quarter. (JUANA ARIAS/For The Washington Post)

The entrance to the city’s latest wine bar is so dark, you could be forgiven for thinking the watering hole is closed. Press on and you’ll see the light. More specifically, you’ll find ribs of ash wood protruding from an inviting central bar, where more than 80 wines can be explored, some 30 by the glass.

Flight Wine Bar is the idea of husband and wife Kabir Amir and Swati Bose, first-time restaurateurs who say they hope their 60-seat Penn Quarter retreat becomes, as Bose puts it, “a daily thing” for patrons. Gentlemen, start your engines: Since it opened in January, Flight appears to be catnip for young women in particular.

Wines are apt to be poured into tumblers, a bartender tells us, because tumblers are less breakable than stemmed glasses and can be easily stacked. That said, stemware is available for those who request it. Regardless of the mode of transport from counter to lips, consider trying something you don’t see every day, maybe a strawberry-colored rosé from Lebanon that hints of cherries on the tongue or a citrusy santorini from Greece, its pleasant saltiness a result of grapes grown in volcanic soil. Curious about a wine? The staff is happy to pour samples.

The short menu at Flight, piloted by chef Bradley Curtis, roams all over the map. Fish and chips translates to a basket of crisp sardines, chewy clams and fried potatoes that take on a vinegar tang after a days-long soak in a salt brine. Acorn squash stuffed with Swiss chard, white beans and roasted tomatoes gets a nice lift from its chili-lime dressing. Diners encounter some turbulence with the pulled duck sandwich, in which a vibrant slaw does its best to counter dry, shredded meat. And the spare cheese plate is a snooze. Flight’s branzino, on the other hand, proves a hit. The fillet is seasoned with sumac and seared skin side down, resulting in super-moist fish. A pilaf of diced eggplant and Chinese black rice, along with a vivid pesto, helps keep the entree lofty.

Desserts include a tomato soup cake based on a family recipe dating to the 1930s. Curtis says he cut the amount of sugar called for in the original recipe, but the former Graffiato cook otherwise bakes it as his grandmother and her mother-in-law did.

“Four generations can’t be wrong,” the chef figures.

Happy hour, during which a select red and white wine go for $7, runs 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays and 10 p.m. to closing Saturdays and Sundays. Flight bills the latter deal as “the red-eye.”

777 Sixth St. NW. 202-864-6445. Small plates, $5 to $17.

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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