In select spots of the D.C. landscape there exist culinary deserts; places void of new-restaurant hot spots, dining options past the lunch rush, or even a neighborhood bar. You’ll frequently encounter these areas around major business sectors, where government workers clock in, clock out and head home to wherever that may be, though you’ll also notice in D.C.’s increasingly apartment-and-condo-driven housing climate that more and more complexes are sprouting up in these neighborhoods as well. So where do they eat? In the case of those on the edge of Chinatown (think those frequenting the Judiciary Square Metro stop), there’s a delicious answer: the new neighborhood kitchen and bar, Carving Room.
Nestled under one of those aforementioned housing complexes and across the street from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Carving Room is part bar, part deli-inspired cuisine and all-focus on house cured and hand carved meats, homemade sides and pickled vegetables. Those looking to grab a quick bite can enjoy quick service during the day while those hoping for a full restaurant experience can experience waiters, bartenders and a hostess, all in an upscale-casual atmosphere.
The first thing the team behind the new eatery will tell you is that Carving Room is not a deli, but a deli-inspired kitchen and bar. “It’s not a deli and it’s definitely not a New York deli,” co-owner Oded Weizmann tells me, though the former New Yorker mentioned he saw a lack of deli-style food here in the District. Drawing on this and ameṛṛuk flavors (his parents are from morocco), Weizmann created a twist on tradition–though the hand-carved focus is both a passion and an homage to Katz’s. “Carving is an art. You can’t just take a knife to meat. I always tell our staff ‘if you think it’s thin, you go thinner.'”
Upon entrance into the new spot, guests lay eyes upon the carving station. It is here that the your meal is sliced right in front of you, be it roast lamb, corned beef, roast beef, pastrami or roast pork, before it is carefully laid onto a sandwich like the Roast Lamb on Ciabatta (with quick-pickled cukes, pickled red onion & lemon honey yogurt sauce) or the Reuben. Can’t decide on a sandwich? They’ve got you covered.
Try the signature Carving Board, their hand-carved take on charcuterrie. We enjoyed the pork, Pastrami and crispy corned beef and loved every bite. The secret might be magic, though it could also be their lengthy preparation process. The pastrami (textured, meaty and flavorful) is made with a dry cure rubbed that’s on with salt. They let this marinate that for nine days, rinse and soak it, before rubbing it coriander and black pepper for a delicious crust. It is then roasted in the oven with wood chips for a smokey flavor. (SO good, trust us.)
The crispy corned beef tastes similar to bacon so they slice it and trim it in a similar fashion. It’s salty, not too crunchy with the perfect amount of chew. Deliciously fatty. The star of their menu is easily the corned beef, which cooks for 21 days. It’s first soaked in water with secret spices, carrots, pink salt, cinnamon, onions celery and brown sugar. When it’s finally done, they rinse it off and braise it for about 3 hours. Don’t forget about their Gardennaire potato salad made with housemade mayo, house pickles, peas, carrots, parsley, eggs, potatoes, Dijon. It’s salty, crunchy and fresh; one bite and you can tell what you’re eating is 100% fresh (so you shouldn’t feel too bad about the mayo–housemade, of course).
The bar menu, is of course, nothing at which to stick your nose up, either. The specialty cocktail list integrates some of the kitchen into the bar, like adding pickle juice in the Bloody Mary and in their take on the dirty martini. (Their Very Bloody Mary, for instance, is garnished with crispy corned beef.) They also offer roughly 11 or 12 cans of beer, three or four in bottles and 10 on draft. Those working in the area will be happy to know their happy hour begins at 4; those who don’t can take comfort in the fact that as long as the bar stays open, the kitchen stays open too.
We suggest the Honey Man Bourbon (made with buffalo trace bourbon, honey-rosemary syrup on the rocks), which is very sweet and slightly herbal–a delicious cocktail we can’t wait to sip on a lazy afternoon when the temperature increases) or their house Bloody. It’s spicy–think Tabasco spicy, not so much of a horseradish spicy–made with stolichnaya vodka, housemade bloody mix, garnished with pickle, carrot and crispy corned beef).
Although their capacity maxes out around 50 (still large enough to host multiple tables or even a large group) they’ll also have 45 seats outside on the patio when the weather gets a bit warmer. And, blessedly, they hope to offer brunch by spring. Although there aren’t a lot of options in the area when it comes to owner-operated businesses, we feel Carving Room matches the needs of the location perfectly, providing a destination kitchen and bar for people who live and work around there. (Don’t worry if you don’t; it’s still worth that three-block walk from the Metro.)