The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide as No. 4 on Tom’s Top 10.
Just a year ago, Marcel’s in the West End was where I sent discerning diners looking for style and serenity with their foie gras. With the debut of Kinship near the convention center, I’m rerouting food lovers to the superior handiwork of former CityZen chef Eric Ziebold and his wife and partner, the gracious Celia Laurent. Dishes are arranged in categories that reflect the chef’s passions. “History” supplies the prettiest salad Nicoise in town; “Ingredients” puts halibut, coated in fried mochi, on a tropical support of papaya and red chilies; and whipped chocolate nougat with espresso caramel and chocolate sorbet lives up to its promise of “Indulgence.” Eating the elements together creates a cool candy bar. Still, “For the Table,” entrees designed for two or more, triggers the most joy; roast chicken stuffed with lemony brioche is the definition of first-class. As beguiling as the food are the wine service and the space, most of all the trim booths whose walls allow for the twin luxuries of privacy and peace.
Kinship: 1015 Seventh St. NW. 202-737-7700. kinshipdc.com .
Prices: Mains $23-$75.
Sound check: 73 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.
The Top 10:
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2016 Spring Dining Guide as No. 2 on a list of the year’s 10 best new restaurants.
The music is played at a level that allows for easy conversation, the space comes courtesy of one of the city’s top decorators, and the food ... suffice it to say it’s great to see Eric Ziebold cooking again. (Also: His whole roast chicken is worth the hour-long wait.) The former CityZen chef and his wife, Celia Laurent, aimed to replicate a dinner party in their alluring new home near the convention center; thank you, sir and ma’am, for hitting your (high) marks. Kinship’s menu, divided into categories including “craft” and “history,” requires some concentration, but the payoff includes custardy veal sweetbreads served with designer ham and truffles, and a mushroom torchon accessorized with toasted brioche and a tangy celery root salad. Can a guest have it all? Kinship RSVPs “yes.”
The following review was originally published March 23, 2016.
Kinship review: The welcome return of a favorite chef
“We haven’t even eaten here yet,” the man gushes to his date, “and we already like the place!”
Welcome back, Eric Ziebold, whose luxe CityZen shuttered after a 10-year run in 2014. Kinship, his Christmas gift to the city and as hospitable as its name suggests, is (almost) everything you’d expect from a four-star chef whose aim is to make you feel as if you’re a guest at a dinner party.
The reception is warm. From the moment you step inside, Kinship makes you feel as if it’s a privilege to have you rather than the other way around. Notice how the music is played at a level where you notice it, but don’t have to compete with it? Just as reassuring is the presence of Celia Laurent, Ziebold’s wife and co-owner, who enjoys the support of a team of uncommonly poised servers.
The space, seemingly dipped in pewter, looks like no other in town. The owners tapped nationally recognized interior decorator Darryl Carter, whose studio and shop are nearby, to create, among other comforts, alcoves set with trim banquettes, practically rooms within rooms set off with small black-and-white photos of the designer’s studio renovation. Kinship represents Carter’s first restaurant project. From appearances, it won’t be his last.
But first, let me address the No. 1 complaint I hear about Kinship: the menu. Not the actual document, a handsome ecru page-turner with the feel of a formal wedding invitation, but the way in which the chef, 44, has organized his 30 or so creations. They’re sprinkled under categories labeled “Craft,” “History,” “Ingredients,” “Indulgence” and “For the Table,” some headings more obvious than others and each trailed by five or so dishes, “the first two appetizers, the next two or three entrees, ending with dessert,” a server announced to a table of furrowed brows one night.
At least on your first visit, ordering feels like work.
Eating, on the other hand, reveals a more playful side to the talented but earnest chef I remember from CityZen. If spring hasn’t nudged it off the menu by the time you read this, Ziebold’s torchon of white mushrooms, an example of “craft” (technique), should be on your itinerary. The beige round, displayed on brushstrokes of huckleberry gastrique, looks like a classic foie gras torchon but uses mushrooms, butter and caramelized onions and garlic to achieve the look, and eerily similar taste, of duck liver. A smear of the torchon on toasted brioche, followed by a bite of pickled mushroom and celery root salad, almost transmits music, the rich notes followed by bells.
The chef uses butter the way Donald Trump issues put-downs — with abandon. Before it’s set on a cushion of crisp French toast, Maine lobster is poached in what tastes like a stick of fat. Lightening the aptly billed “indulgence” are cubes of persimmon and sliced cucumber on the plate and an intriguing drift of sesame mousse that momentarily shifts the action to Asia. And in the chef’s salute to “ingredients,” sea urchin lobes and agnolotti, pillows stuffed with potato, are separated from each other with liquid fingers of shimmering lemon buerre blanc. Veal sweetbreads make frequent appearances under “history.” While every treatment has had something to recommend it, the medal of honor goes to those sweetbreads, cooked so the centers resemble custard, and gloriously teamed with corned beef tongue, designer ham and black truffles.
With the entrees come a little box of warm Parker House rolls, a welcome carry-over from CityZen. (A guest with allergies received gluten-free brioche.) And requests for wine are made entertaining whenever sommelier Kerstin Mikalbrown, formerly of Rose’s Luxury, is involved. Kinship isn’t without faults — a misplaced dish one night, a vague veneer of roasted tofu supporting otherwise lovely rockfish — but the newcomer’s considerable assets put them in perspective.
The most rapturous course is “for the table,” typically a platter of something whole (fish, chicken, foie gras) meant to be shared by two or more diners. The roast chicken takes a full hour to cook, but your patience is rewarded when Laurent shows up with a bird that appears to be auditioning for Saveur, then whisks the beauty back to the kitchen, where it is carved and returned with a lemony brioche stuffing beneath the skin and crisp leg meat punctuating a side of frisee. Another dinner, Laurent introduces a companion and me to a whole Dover sole, displaying the fish as if it were a fine wine, before the delicacy is filleted away from our eyes and brought back as dinner with sauteed pea shoots and a golden gratin of thin-sliced potatoes and onions. Ziebold is a chef who tastes his food; his dishes are seasoned perfectly. More recently, I asked for the lamb for two, and while the server didn’t trot out the four-legged beast, she did impress us with a strapping platter of meat served as rosy rack of lamb, ballotine and spicy sausage. Ribbons of velvety roast peppers and grits that compare to Charleston’s finest turned the butchery into a banquet.
Desserts make you wish other restaurants tried harder. Here’s the uncommon kitchen that not only whips up souffles, but does the dessert justice. Kinship’s single flavor, chocolate chip cookie dough, is lighter than it sounds, and what better way to serve it than with milk ... ice cream? The confection I returned to most in late winter featured thin layers of barely sweetened apple presented with a cloud of bay laurel mousse and lightly smoked vanilla ice cream. Cashew financiers, the size of buttons, melt on the tongue and help position the finale as another “indulgence.” The single stumble among desserts is a dry pineapple crumb cake with unripe bites of fruit, more Starbucks than star chef.
Kinship is poised to get some stiff competition from Metier, Ziebold’s even grander plan to revive fine dining. Expected to make its debut any day now, the second dining room, a mere elevator descent from Kinship, will feature a salon for drinks and a $200 tasting menu — per the trend, service included.
Given his success with Act 1, the chef has his work cut out for him. But he has only himself to blame for raising the bar, and our expectations.