Gravitas is giving you one more reason to make the trek to Ivy City. Maybe you hit up Ivy City Smokehouse for brunch on the weekends. Maybe you swing by Republic Restoratives for a drink or two. Maybe you’ve even checked out some of Atlas Brew Work’s many heavy metal concerts. Like all of these fine establishments, Gravitas aims to draw you into the neighborhood, but it doesn’t just want you to pop in for an hour. With its seven-course menu option and its cozy atmosphere, chef Matt Baker has created the kind of restaurant that’s made for lingering.
Featuring high ceilings, huge windows and exposed brick, Gravitas hits all of the right cues when it comes to modern restaurant design. It’s equal parts industrial and homey without too much Fixer Upper kitsch, and its open floor plan means you never feel far from the madness of the kitchen. Although, madness might not be the right word. Less than a year in, Baker and his staff look and act like a finely tuned team, but that doesn’t make watching them buzz around the kitchen any less fun.
Separated into sections titled ‘Light Beginnings’, ‘Indulgence’, ‘Hearty’ and ‘Sweet’, Gravitas’ menu is reflective of their space. Traditional, comfortable food dressed with a stroke of modernity. Even their cocktails fall in line. Classics like the French 75 and Bees Knees are done right, but house inventions like the moodily named When Solace Comes First (made with rum, curacao, pineapple, lime and the Dutch made Boomsma) also manage to impress. The light (and bright) drinks pair well with our surprise amuse-bouche, a dollop of fried cod, a sliver of a fingerling potato chip and a smear of tartar sauce that evokes an entire meal of fish and chips.
That sleight of the hand is apparent in all of Gravitas’ best dishes. Baker’s courses are at their strongest when everything comes together in a way that feels evocative and a little bit magical. Like their Yellowfish tuna sashimi, which manages to be both buttery soft and delightfully crunchy, deep and rich, but zippy with its soy vinaigrette and black vinegar aioli. Similarly, the gruyere agnolotti dives headfirst into indulgence with its pillowy pasta and melted leeks, but its ash chip crown is like an edible speed bump, it changes the entire course of the dish and makes it far more interesting in the process.
The decadence reaches an all-time high with the seared scallops, which comes with a casual lump of Osetra caviar, a dash of dark creamed spinach and a drizzle of onion soubise. It’s equal parts salty, sweet and enchanting. Did Chef Baker make a Faustian pact with the devil to conjure up this dish? I would believe it… and I would do the same thing.
While Gravitas’ tea service is how I want to end every day, dessert falls flat in a meal jam-packed with things worth writing home about. Instead, aim to end your meal with their venison. It’s perfectly cooked and seasoned, with a coffee crust that will make you wish the portion was much larger. Then kick back and enjoy your tea (or coffee if you like to party), munch on some cookies and soak in the atmosphere. There’s no reason to rush home when you feel so at home.