Catch 15, a new hook for K Street

At Catch 15, which opened two months ago on K Street NW, empanadas are filled with artichokes, goat cheese and green olives. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

Now here’s a bulletin you haven’t read in a long time: K Street has a new place to eat. It’s called Catch 15 and it comes from the owner of the recently shuttered Tuscana West downtown.

The concept won’t set off any trend alerts: small plates in dozens of flavors, from veteran Washington chef Vincent Torres, formerly of Mio.

Even at high noon, Catch 15 feels like 8 at night. The long and narrow restaurant is lighted as though OkCupid has a stake in it. The design details — brown velvet chairs, sheer curtains between booths, Sinatra crooning in the background — only heighten the romantic effect, which feels a little weird when it’s just you and a pal from the office out for a bite to eat.

Meanwhile, low seating and a dancing fire seduce patrons from the rear of the 118-seat restaurant, a former print shop. At a time when many new restaurants forgo offering bread baskets, a cone of warm, seeded flatbread with a couple of tapenades is a welcome departure.

Working from a basement kitchen, Torres dispatches some pleasing dishes. Here comes a juicy ground-lamb kebab bedded on basmati rice and escorted by a cucumber-and-yogurt sauce, a taste of the Middle East for $7. Four shrimp in a haze of garlic and butter nod to Spain; flaky spanakopita does Greece proud. Empanadas stuffed with artichokes, goat cheese and green olives call to more than just vegetarian appetites.

Looking for something in a different size? One of the larger plates finds slices of sauteed veal jazzed up with sweet and hot peppers alongside a turban of spaghetti.

Catch 15 plays up its raw bar, but the oysters I’ve slurped here — scrawny and cool rather than cold — are no match for the models dispensed at Old Ebbitt Grill near the Treasury building. And I could hardly taste the tuna tartare for all its bold accents — pickled ginger and pomegranate, among others — that masked the raw fish.

Otherwise, good catch, K Street.

1518 K St. NW. 202-969-2858. Small plates, $5 to $13.

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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