Image: Setting the Table: Catfish, Monkfish, Vines & Nightshades
Last Updated: 7/25/2021
Current Status: Shilling is back to full operations with sitdown service inside and out. They have even launched a Chef’s Counter tasting menu. They continue to do their pop-up sandwich concept Ampersandwich, during the day. Evening take-out and delivery has stopped.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: August 2019
Despite being brand new and housed in a glass and steel multi-use building, Shilling Canning Co. feels worn and comfortable, like a favorite chair. Only in that chair you are eating well-made food that is local, fresh and sharp. Reid Shilling is the man behind the project. He has worked for large-scale operations in New York, Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, and he was a key part of the opening team at The Dabney. Shilling is a chef who has paid his dues and now is doing something personal and special. In a strange way, despite serving mid-Atlantic focused cuisine, the place it most evokes is not The Dabney, it is Shilling’s neighbor Chloe, where Haidar Karoum’s equally personal vision is allowed to shine. The Shilling family name is on the metaphorical shingle, and he is bringing his passion and experience to bear.
The food hits a sweet spot. It is New American that delights more than challenges. It is tied enough to tradition that diners will sense a comforting familiarity. Yet, that does not mean it is without creativity or passion. The deviled eggs come with tiny pieces of ham that add a salty bite. Vines and Nightshades, at least in August is a tomato-heavy dish with squash and dressing mixed in. Its boldness comes from letting the ingredients shine (the menu has already evolved in the first month to match the market). There is a beast of a wood-fired oven that the chef talks about with pride. The bacon wrapped monkfish shows off the subtle, smoky cooking. A ring of gnudi made one diner talk of returning the very next day. Dressed with tomato sauce and fresh basil it is balanced between acid and rich density. Outside the door are large planters holding herbs that are incorporated into the food, including the basil in this dish. Winter could be a challenge, but I’m sure there is a plan. Desserts also match the creative yet comfortable theme. A peach crisp used the season’s fruit. The corn cake with Bourbon ice cream and peanuts was a mix of sweet and salty but not too rich.
The place has attracted some good talent. Britt Ingalls is running the cocktail program. She matches Shilling’s enthusiasm and creativity. The wine list is not deep, but it works to meet most needs. Service is attentive and friendly, even if it is still finding its feet.
As mentioned, the space is warm, taking advantage of the large windows. There is also the possibility of outdoor seating, but it looks like they are not ready for that yet. The bar is at the center and the first thing you see when entering. If you are in the area, pull up a chair and enjoy a meal. If you are farther away, make plans to make a trip. Even allowing for opening jitters, this place is a winner.
Other Guidance: It is a nice place, but not fancy. Coat and tie are not out of place but neither are shorts. The local focus means at least a few vegetable options, but it is not the focus. GF can also do well with some guidance from the server.
Washington Post: Tom’s first bite came within three weeks of opening and it reflects an ambitious restaurant working out the kinks. He compares it unfavorably to The Dabney, which is totally unfair since they are two different places trying to do different things, albeit in the same culinary tradition. He takes a cheap shot that it had two years to work out kinks before opening, but building a restaurant is not running one. It is never easy to be compared to a legend, but Shilling – unlike some – has the ability to stand on his own.
Food and Drink: