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New Heights Restaurant
By Phyllis C. Richman
Washington Post Restaurant Critic
From The Washington Post Dining Guide, November 1996

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| 2317 Calvert St. NW
(202) 234-4110

Hours of Operation and Prices
Dinner: Sun-Th 5:30-10, F-Sat 5:30-11; Entrees: $16.50-$25
Brunch: Sun 11-2:30, $7.75-$11.50

Other Information
• Credit Cards: All major
• Reservations: Recommended
• Dress: Casual
• Parking: Complimentary valet
• Nearest Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo

Just off Connecticut Avenue, New Heights is an elegant, beautifully run restaurant where the service is always knowledgeable and accommodating, the wine list is a joy and the furnishings are magnificently crafted, right down to the handmade tables. No wonder it's been a launching pad for many Washington chefs.

While certain of its signatures - the black bean pate, the options of appetizer or entree portions - have stayed through all its years and changes, at New Heights each chef has created a new menu and a new tone. The current chef is Matthew Lake, remarkably young and an adventurer in the kitchen. When he was new at the job he was more restrained, and I wish he had stayed that way. Alternatively, I look forward to his becoming more seasoned. Now he seems to be in an interim period of letting his imagination run free, often at the expense of reason. Soft-shell crabs with roasted pineapple and fried plantains has a sticky yellow sauce that tastes vaguely like banana pudding. Palak paneer is so overseasoned that it's painful to eat. And croquettes - of rice and quinoa or celeriac - are both leaden and bland. I didn't dare try beet-smoked trout or sea bass with roasted horseradish sauce.

Yet all is forgiven with an appetizer of asparagus-shallot flan that has a silken texture and garden-bright flavor, in a subtle yellow corn sauce. And grouper is outstanding with its earthy dark pureed portobello mushroom sauce and hearty goat cheese potato puree, plus a decadent pile of fried onion rings on top. Such inconsistencies are the problem of taking charge too soon, before the mentoring process has run its course. The task is dumped in the lap of the diner, to let the chef know when his ideas don't work. And nobody wants to pay top dollar for the chance to critique an unfiltered imagination.

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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