If there’s one dish that captures the spirit of the new Tail Up Goat, it’s lamb ribs built for two. The strapping platter of roasted, grilled meat massaged with warm spices is presented with tangy yogurt, earthy beets and sliced onions zapped with sweet-tart sumac. “You can eat it with your hands,” says a server, placing some finger towels near the crunchy, fatty, altogether rousing feast.
Expectations run high for the trio that brought the restaurant to life in Adams Morgan in February. Chef Jon Sybert, his wife, Jill Tyler, and their friend Bill Jensen are all alumni of Komi, the four-star contemporary Greek dining room in Dupont Circle. With all due respect to their former employer, the owners of Tail Up Goat see this spot as a more approachable, and certainly a more regular, occasion for diners than their white-tablecloth alma mater.
Cooking “food I like to eat,” Sybert says, “I’m most excited about breads and pastas.” So begin a night with carbs, maybe slices of fashionably charred chocolate-rye bread accompanied by a sardine swaddled in a salt crust. If the image sounds like a scene from “Bizarre Foods,” the reality is a DIY open-face fish sandwich likely to prompt imitations. A dive into the chef’s handful of pastas (some gluten-free) reaps octopus ragu on house-made cavatelli, a robust combination jacked up with lemon olive oil and lemon zest in the bread crumbs. Salt cod fritters are almost as unavoidable as post-Snowzilla potholes these days; the crisp golden orbs at Tail Up Goat set themselves apart with a soft base of smoked cauliflower puree. Only a dish of braised carrots with sticky garlic goes back to the kitchen uneaten.
Desserts reflect the team’s summertime canning efforts. Almond cake is finished with apricot preserves, and butterscotch budino gets a boost from blood orange.
Sybert’s food is washed back with wines that Jensen feels deserve more attention — say, a red from the Canary Islands that reflects the region’s volcanic soil — in a room that doesn’t call attention to itself yet creates a cozy backdrop with a ribbed ceiling and watery mural.
The newcomer’s curious name was inspired by Tyler’s years spent in the Virgin Islands, where she says locals have a saying for distinguishing between similar-looking animals: “Tail up goat, tail down sheep.”
Can I ask a favor, gang? Goat was a signature at Komi. A restaurant featuring the name of my favorite red meat really ought to put the prize on its menu.
1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW. 202-986-9600. tailupgoat.com. Pastas and dishes for two, $15 to $42.
Correction: An earlier headline misidentified the number of Komi veterans involved in the project.