The appetizing and vegetable-packed choices at the new Italian dairy kosher restaurant in the Washington Jewish Community Center were enough – but just barely – to overcome the constant view of a steady stream of people heading to and from the gym and the JCC employees hustling to move equipment in preparation for a concert in a nearby room.
On a Star of David rating – five going to the restaurant that can slay Goliath with one unforgettable dish or amazing combination of great food, ambience and service and one to the restaurant that made you wish you ate at home – Silver Crust rises to four Jewish stars.
On a recent Thursday evening dinner visit, the menu boasted of handmade pasta, house made pomodoro sauce and root and roasted vegetables on most dishes. The day’s special, pesce al forno ($24) featured a crisp topped but tender roasted salmon with truffle salt-seasoned fingerling potatoes and pan caramelized fennel root. It was plentiful and tasty and the presentation was excellent.
Silver Crust, like its sister restaurant, Ben Yehuda Pizza in the Kemp Mill Shopping Center in Silver Spring — both are operated by Josh Katz — offers individual pies and larger ones for sharing.
The architect pizza and calzone selections enable patrons to choose their own sauce, cheese and vegetable toppings, which included several types of mushrooms, peppers, onions and olives as well as cauliflower and eggplant. For an extra one or two dollars, the choices expanded to include a saffron tomato pesto sauce or cheeses including ricotta salata and smoked Gouda.
The calzone ($9) had less cheese than expected but far more vegetables, a nice compromise.
We ordered the herb and cheese fries ($9) after noticing that most nearby diners were nibbling away at bowls full of them. The fresh herbs made for a delicious addition but the spicy red pepper aioli dip was hotter than anything else.
The risotto Milanese ($9) appetizer, a saffron-infused seared risotto fritter atop ricotta cheese and a sauce much like the duck sauce in Chinese restaurants that included a bed of greens, was good. But it would have been better with a lot less oil.
There was only a single dessert choice, a crème brulee ($6) with blueberries sprinkled atop and around. This mousse-like dish lacked much taste except for the burnt layer that covered it. I’d recommend not serving dessert if this is the only choice.
One waiter worked the entire, although admittedly small, restaurant. He was friendly and helpful and even had the mashgiach, kosher supervisor, come talk to a table of eight diners who wanted to know more about kashrut. The waiter was attentive to all which was admirable considering a party of 14 took up about half the restaurant.
There were quite a few menu changes which the waiter informed patrons about. The lasagna is no longer offered as few people had ordered it, one appetizer was not available that night and the insalata casa description was not correct and didn’t have all the listed ingredients, he said.
All in all, the food was quite good. But considering the prices and its attempt to be an upscale restaurant, the Silver Crust might well consider building some type of barrier between its tables and the JCC lobby for a more intimate atmosphere.
Silver Crust in the JCC’s Harold and Barbara Berman Café, 1529 16th Street NW, is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Fridays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It is kosher certified by the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.