It was a good day. I got to see one of my best friends for the first time since she had her baby back in July and at the same time try one of the restaurants that had been at the top of my wish list for months. Tail Up Goat, along with The Dabney and Bad Saint, was recently named one of the 50 best new restaurants in the U.S. by Bon Appetit.
Tail Up Goat is the passion project a trio of restaurant-industry experts that hail from Komi, the renowned DC restaurant wherein I had the single best meal of my life to date. That, along with the fact that I’ve hardly heard or read a single bad word about the place had me on pins and needles of excitement for this dining experience.
I arrived first and received prompt and courteous service as I was shown to the table and given a complimentary palate-cleansing shrub of watermelon, jalapeño and apple cider vinegar. I loved the tart finish of the drink with its subtle spice, but my friends had mixed reactions. Whatever your opinion, it’s a nice touch that set an elevated tone for the meal to come.
The alcoholic beverage selection was also impressive. The wine list is vast without being overwhelming and offers a good selection of wines by the glass, although I did feel that an additional red or two to the glass list would be nice. They were highlighting Riesling during our visit, so I had a nice off-dry version and later a tasty Lambrusco – a rare find by the glass.
As soon as everyone arrived and we heard the rundown of the specials, we immediately ordered a boatload of dishes because it was impossible to choose just a few.
If you’ve read anything about Tail Up Goat, you’ve heard about the rave-worthy breads. I have to admit, I thought this was pretty strange. The descriptions of the bread sounded a bit busy and overloaded to me, and I was skeptical that a plate full of fancy carbs would really get the job done. But of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about. We ordered both the red grit sourdough with sumac onions, candied black olive and bottarga and the brown rice bread (above) with red kuri squash, hot honey, pecans and benne seeds and immediately understood the hype.
Because I am not a baker, I admit I sometimes forget the glory that is fresh-baked, non-processed bread. I love the use of less traditional grains and they way that the toppings compliment the unique flavor of each bread.
Both versions were thick, dense and chewy and the toppings worked perfectly, if inexplicably. We all enjoyed the brown rice bread just a touch more that the sourdough, with its tender, sweet squash on top and the perfect bit of crunch from the benne seeds. If ever there was a bread course you could actually make a meal of, this is it.
Up next, one of the day’s specials, a frittata made with pasta and both fresh and dehydrated tomatoes. This was good, but less successful than everything that was to come. I enjoyed notes of citrus and the melt-in-your mouth cheese, but found the actual frittata too dry.
I enjoyed the light take on stracciatella with roasted heirloom carrots, peanuts and celery greens. Like the breads, this is a mainstay on the menu but the preparation changes with the seasons. The ingredients didn’t come together seamlessly, but on their own were fresh and enjoyable, the cheese taking a back seat to the produce.
The dishes arrived in a fairly quick succession, but with enough time in between to allow for ample chatter amongst friends. Our servers appeared often to ensure we were never short on water or sitting in front of a dirty plate. Some at the table found this a bit obtrusive, but I didn’t mind a bit. In fact, service is one of the main areas in which I can see the correlation to Tail Up Goat owners’ previous stations at critically acclaimed Komi. No detail is overlooked.
Although we’d definitely over-ordered with our starters, we still eagerly anticipated our main courses. I shared the famous goat lasagna with my friend Sham, which turned out to be perfectly sized for two people who just ate their weight in bread and cheese.
I don’t know if it was our full stomachs, but this didn’t quite wow us in the way I’d expected. It was, however, beautiful to look at and flavors were wonderful, specifically in the cases of the creamy, lemony salsa verde and fresh tomato sauce. As with the frittata, I felt that the pasta itself was a little dry and the goat kind of got lost in the mix.
Camille ordered the beautiful cappalletti pasta bathing in a rich, buttery sauce. This was probably one of the more traditional Italian items on the menu, and executed perfectly. A hungrier diner would probably scoff at the paltry portion, but she felt it was just right after our generous appetizers.
Unmani opted for the roasted eggplant with sweet corn, za’atar, hazelnuts and burnt bread sauce. The eggplant had the perfect texture, not chewy or at all slimy. The accompaniments reminded me of the breads from earlier in the meal. On paper, it sounded too busy but on the plate it all somehow made sense.
I am a big fan of the spotlight fresh produce is getting on DC menus these days. The Dabney and Bad Saint are doing this as well, which makes sense considering all of the good press all three restaurants have received. It’s not just about “farm to table”, but about taking every day vegetables and creating a dish even a hardcore carnivore will rave about.
We couldn’t leave without sampling the dessert menu. Camille ordered a cannoli, the perfect small bite and well priced at $3. The rest of us shared the made-to-order pistachio roll with labneh gelato, fennel honey.
This was a lovely not-too-sweet finish to an extraordinary meal. I may not have been won over by every dish, but I left Tail Up Goat completely satisfied and enamored with the experience as a whole. The atmosphere is fun and playful, the cooking is inventive and direct and the service is some of the best you’ll find in the city.
With so many dining options in DC, I’m often satisfied to visit a new place once and move on to the next. That is not the case with Tail Up Goat. I will definitely be returning soon, specifically to try the lamb ribs for two and more of that brown rice bread.