New restaurant Silo teases the taste buds

January 23, 2014

Raza Mohaddes

The Scotch Striptease cocktail makes a playful nod to the past tenants of the space Silo now inhabits. Before Reza Akhavan opened the restaurant in Mount Vernon, the industrial building was an adult video store. Though the alliterative drink stands on its own—a strip of bacon and a smoked apple cider ice cube liven straight scotch—the entire cocktail menu begs to be tasted.

Served in a delicate martini glass with a curved lip, the Chai Manhattan reimagines the classic drink with a softer personality. Chai liqueur eases the bourbon’s bite with a spice-lit aftertaste. Still, the Manhattan packs more punch than the Lemon and Rosemary Old Fashioned. Sweet and refreshing, the Old Fashioned is one of the bar’s mellower offerings.

Of course, Silo serves more than cocktails, but the three-Chile syrup, sage, and cacao that pepper the rest of the drinks menu all point to the restaurant’s larger theme: there lies a certain warmth beneath Silo’s cold concrete and iron exterior. The atmosphere is a study in contrasts—red bricks peek out from swaths of white plaster on the walls and soft lights with exposed filaments glow off metal tubing.

“Lighting is very important,” Akhavan said when he sat down with me. “Picking the lights was tough. If you have an unlimited budget, you can do whatever you want. But if you don’t, then you have to get very creative,” he said. Silo is housed in a historical building, so construction regulations on the space are tight. But small touches—a candle here and there, jars of herbs lined up on the bar—liven the otherwise spartan decor.

While the menu appears minimalist, the food is anything but. With only seven entrees and a few more appetizers, Silo’s offerings are short and sweet. “I always wanted to have a small menu that we can change by season,” Akhavan said, “and our kitchen is not that big.”

Despite its brevity, the menu manages to explore both avant-garde dishes and more approachable foods. Vanilla-braised frog legs with garlic risotto sit next to mac and cheese.

Yet, truffles and a creamy white wine cheese sauce differentiate the macaroni and make it one of the most enjoyable plates at Silo.

While the bar menu, appetizers, and vegetarian options run at about eight dollars, the meat-heavy main dishes are all at least double that price. Thankfully, both the smaller-portioned comfort food and the more adventurous entrees prove filling. Even the garden salad feels like a full meal, while a tiny quail egg nested in a crispy cheese nest adds to the presentation, the salad’s unassuming marinated tomatoes are what really make the appetizer.

Early on a Sunday night, Silo was fairly quiet, just like the neighborhood around it. “I live in the area,” Akhavan says. “It’s changing, up and coming. There’s still not much going on right around these few blocks.”

Rather than sleepy, the atmosphere at Silo was relaxed, if slow paced. It is a place where you can accidentally get caught up in hours-long conversation over hearty food and good drinks.


919 5th St,  N.W.

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