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Creme, Owner Tegist Alayew Reopen on 14th and Belmont Street in Columbia Heights - Closed

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When I had dinner at Al Crostino the other night, I noticed that the place next door was also new (well, at least I think so). Creme. It looks like more bar/lounge than restaurant, however our server at Al Crostino said it was in fact a restaurant.

Has anyone heard anything about this place or been there?

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I posted about it here. The menu is sort of a comfort food amalgam...shrimp and grits, Kobe beef hot dog, oven roasted chicken "served with a large portion of love and white rice."

The space is pretty nice inside. I'd probably be more inclined to stop in for drinks than a full dinner, though. Not much on the menu really appealed to me, but I'll probably give it a try soon.

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:P

I really hope the Kobe beef hot dog does not start popping up all over the place. :wub::P

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Tried out the dog in question, and it was juicy and flavorful, but I would've never known it was Kobe beef if it didn't say so on the menu. Tasted like a pork dog to me. The best part though was the plate of about 10 condiments...two mustards, pickled onions, kim chee, tomato marmalade and more...and it was great fun dressing up the dog with so many choices.

We also had the "no breadcrumb" crabcake -- crab salad wrapped in a spring roll wrapper -- which worked surprisingly well, and the shrimp and grits. The shrimp and grits were very tasty with plenty of garlic flavor and plump shrimp cooked just right. The meal was complemented by great, tangy margaritas, served up.

Looking forward to going back for more cocktails and the "pork and beans" (yes, comfort food seems to be the new latin-asian fusion), which looked great on the table next to us. A big pork shank with I can't remember what kind of beans. I think I underestimated Creme and am glad to have it in the 'hood.

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After a hard day chopping down mature trees and excavating dirt from the grounds of the washington cathedral and sidwell friends school, we had worked up quite an appetite and decided to hop on the nearest bus, which happened to be a 90, in search of nourishment in the fast-changing u street area. there were a lot of places we had heard about and wanted to try. walking east from 14th, creme cafe was the first to come up and had the look of new real estate, so we popped in, not knowing what to expect. kobe beef hotdogs were in the back of my mind.

the restaurant is long and narrow, a pit area up front for lounging, followed by a longish bar on the left and an open kitchen at the end. dining tables run the length of the right hand side along a banquette, accommodating roughly eight parties at a time at tables that can be split into two-tops for some flexibility in seating, but mostly were not. exposed hvac conduits hug the ceiling, nothing new there in the design world, and there is an abundance of blonde wood, not new either, but this is a nice and comfortable space, clean as a whistle, definitely a big step up from some of the pioneering boho spots along this strip. money has been spent and people are hanging out.

it looked, at first, that we would have to cool our heels at the bar, but there was a vacant table next to the mirror. this is not the ideal table for women obsessed with their hair, but it was a good table for us because we were just hungry. drinks were decent; bread ditto accompanied by a spread the consistency of hummous with maybe some artichoke, on the bland side, i believe we were told what was in it but it was harder to hear our server than each other; and the wine list consists mostly of decent bottles you can buy at whole foods on p street. several wines are available by the glass, nothing too serious, and are served in stemless glasses.

a first plate of a small bowl of sauteed locally gathered (farmed) mushrooms in truffle oil, seasoned with salt, parsley and scallions provided a rich start to the meal. it was good, with a small assortment of fungi, beneath three thin pads of manchego, only one of which had melted the way it should have. instead of the oil, butter would have worked just as well, maybe better. this is a favorite of our server, if i heard correctly. a caesar salad, served with an anchovy mousse in a small tostada, was pronounced successfuly by my companion, though the diners a couple of tables down had a better idea; it's big enough to share. portion sizes tend to trump flavor at this restaurant.

this seems like it would be a good place for a cheeseburger, which may explain why they were out of them. half of a big roasted chicken is on the regular menu, but on sunday night was also offered fried, so i ordered that. it wasn't really that bad, a bit dry, nicely coated with no grease, inconsistently salted. a mound of rice, though, was available to provide the correct seasoning for undersalted pieces. the poultry came with a nice crunchy broccoli spear. the other side of the table was having a rougher time with a surf and turf combo of flatiron steak and shrimp. i tasted the steak, no problem especially, with tarragon nicely balanced in the "berrnaise?" sauce. fried shrimp were reported to be mushy, maybe frozen, with coconut accents and, what this diner particularly does not like to be surprised by -- fusion going on! a small salad, plopped in the middle of the platter, was out of place. this dish had its merits, but just by looking at it you could tell that there was too much going on in one place.

no room for dessert, unfortunately, even with hearty appetites. the lemon cake with fresh strawberries looked good.

although there were mussels, shrimp and salmon on the menu, the accent seems to be more on meat and potatoes at creme cafe, with a southern accent thrown in for good measure. (skip the big fries, which are totally lacking in character.) and a heated conversation will probably carry you past most of the imperfections in the food ("i don't know if the bilbao guggenheim is tacky, but the hot rock museum is tacky.""i wouldn't listen to her. you should hear what she says about the space needle.") you couldn't fault the service, although it is spread a bit thin. our server seemed to be working all of the tables, took care of our every need throughout the meal and even happily tolerated listening to our ramblings.

if i lived across the street, i might put this place on my list, but at $100 for two i know where for the same price i can find sublime versions, closer to home, of some of the same things being offered here. (returning home, we noticed that the alaskan pipeline is still on the ellington bridge, or have they opened up rock creek for exploration?)

Edited by giant shrimp

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... but at $100 for two i know where for the same price i can find sublime versions, closer to home, of some of the same things being offered here.
Just out of curiosity, how on earth did you get to $100 for two people? I've eaten there with larger parties and it's never run us that much.

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drinks were decent; bread ditto accompanied by a spread the consistency of hummous with maybe some artichoke, on the bland side, i believe we were told what was in it but it was harder to hear our server than each other; ...

fried shrimp were reported to be mushy, maybe frozen, with coconut accents and, what this diner particularly does not like to be surprised by -- fusion going on! a small salad, plopped in the middle of the platter, was out of place. this dish had its merits, but just by looking at it you could tell that there was too much going on in one place.

Great post, giantshrimp, and very astute although I think you're being too forgiving.

The sauteed shrimp and grits is university bad, combining the worst attributes of a Sysco truck and a catered function, slapped together, bathed in a watery broth tasting of garlic powder, and emblematic of the superficial dishes that came from this kitchen.

When is someone going to come right out and say that the restaurants on U Street rival only Woodley Park for being TERRIBLE as a group?

Cheers,

Rocks.

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and there is an abundance of blonde wood, not new either, but this is a nice and comfortable space, clean as a whistle

The astute observer may notice that the tables at Creme are those of the old Crisfield's space, artfully crafted into something new; a gift from me to T (a great friend and mentor to many in this town for whom a restaurant job was a way to feed the kids, not to get the picture in the paper with their name bold-faced on their sleeve(??!??)).

While I agree with Rocks in general about U Street, Creme has some honest ambitions which it will grow into, and is already doing a great job with many things, and some dishes as well--T's meat and two is a big serving of heart-felt love and deliciousness.

Above all, let's not forget that Creme is designed to serve the community that is being drowned out by the white noise of U Street development, and it does so well. If any place on U is what it is supposed to be, Creme is it.

Now if they would only re-open State of the Union...

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Just out of curiosity, how on earth did you get to $100 for two people? I've eaten there with larger parties and it's never run us that much.

two drinks, two glasses of wine, two appetizers and two entrees plus tax and tip equals $100 for two. if we had just ordered cheeseburgers, if they had had any, plus a glass of wine, it would have been less. but this is not a cheap restaurant. i have no complaints about the place physically. it's nice. however, i thought it was part of the white noise of u street development, for better or worse, not an escape from it. i could be wrong (i didn't get to see it with the lights all the way up) but it seemed like a substantial renovation job, and i am assuming that high rent is built into your check. you can make a real escape from the new u at the ethiopian restaurants further down the street. they are a good 40% less expensive than creme cafe and the food is excellent.

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i  however, i thought it was part of the white noise of u street development, for better or worse, not an escape from it. i could be wrong (i didn't get to see it with the lights all the way up) but it seemed like a substantial renovation job, and i am assuming that high rent is built into your check.

Not an escape from the development, but an alternative to how it might have been done--local, hands-on black ownership with ambition and commitment--not chains, not club-money, fast-buck attitude.

The renovation was substantial, but mostly savings and sweat. The tables I gave T saved him about $4,000--go save that on kitchen wages. The rent is actually low--the lease is still from the previous Ethiopan restaurant--and any higher-than-the-chains prices come from high-cost ingredients.

Not that the restaurant is perfect--I think that execution, quality and speed of service suffer unnecessarily from too many details on each plate--but that is a sin of trying too hard and will be worked out I'm sure.

I've had much worse for much more money at places that never get called on it--maybe because people are judging from a different perspective.

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I've had much worse for much more money at places that never get called on it--maybe because people are judging from a different perspective.

i don't think that creme is overpriced. restaurants are getting pretty expensive these days, so is food. but my main point is that we are not the last of the big spenders, and it's pretty easy to run up a $100 tab at creme and many other restaurants in its vicinity.

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In my five or six visits to Creme I have sampled at least half the dishes on the menu. My food has alwas been average or better and has, on a couple of occasions, been terrific. Service and ticket times have been inconsistent, and once my Surf 'n Turf was served barely warm. Those issues notwithstanding, I am of similar mind to Mr. Landrum: Creme knows what it wants to be--a solid neighborhood restaurant--and is not too far off the mark.

Value is one characteristic that often receives short shrift here, and it's part of Creme's strong suit. Entrees range from $9-$18. For respectable, sit-down dining in this city, that's solidly mid-range, and it's rare. It's wonderful to have in the neighborhood a comfortable, inviting space where the food is hearty and the staff (everyone, from Chef T on down) is friendly. It's not Palena, Komi, or Cashion's. But thankfully, it doesn't aspire to be.

Menu likes: El's Mushroom Surprise, the No-breadcrumb crabcake, Surf 'n Turf, Chicken Soup, and the Little Lemon Bundt Cake

Menu dislikes: Ceasar salad with Anchovie Mousse, all of the other desserts

Edited by LoganCircle

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the food is hearty and the staff (everyone, from Chef T on down) is friendly.  It's not Palena, Komi, or Cashion's.  But thankfully, it doesn't aspire to be.

Menu likes:  the No-breadcrumb crabcake

I was happy to see Bach (no, not that Bach) behind the bar - he left Marcel's a couple of months ago and really enjoys working here. He's a good guy, and I'd return here just because of him.

I didn't like that crabcake. Remember the "Chesapeake Bay vs. Southeast Asia" blind crab tasting that Kliman held for his Phillip's expose in the City Paper? This is exactly what I remember Kaz Okochi describing the cheap stuff as being: huge chunks of frozen and/or canned, pasteurized meat that are flavorless.

Bach had never seen me outside of Marcel's, and I'm sure he had me pegged as a high-end diner (I'm not), so he urged me to get the crabcake and the shrimp-and-grits, when all I really wanted was a burger. I struck up a conversation with a regular here, sitting at the bar, and was eyeing his chicken - it looked simple and had plain white rice which appealed to me. Maybe I should have ordered more simply - okay, you guys talked me into it: I'll give it another go at some point.

Still: app, main, two beers, tax, tip, $50. Going rate I suppose, but not cheap.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Still:  app, main, two beers, tax, tip, $50.  Going rate I suppose, but not cheap.

Doesn't that pairing reflect the most expensive appetizer and the most expensive entree on the menu? I think one would find few sit-down places in the area--outside of a handful of wonderful ethnic options--where one could order the highest priced appetizer and entree and a few beers and get out for $50.

Rocks and I shared the same inaugural meal. I liked the crabcake (and have ordered it again) but have not revisited the shrimp and grits. My grits were more like a polenta cake than the creamy concoction I expected and the garlic overwhelmed the flavors of the other ingredients. When told of the grits cake, my server apologized and said they shouldn't be that way.

The burger's good but they often have limited quantities on hand.

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I cannot come up with Creme Cafe's web site, even after entering a series of guesses into my browser address field. How can any restaurant in D.C. that purports to be anything more than a take-out joint survive without a web site?

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When Will I Learn

By JLK

In 90% of cases, it is a bad idea to go to a restaurant the week it is reviewed by the Post. Unfortunately Creme fell into the 90, not the remaining 10%. My boyfriend and I had a truly abyssmal meal there this week. The highlights were my drink (a truly kickass caipirinha) and our server (a really pleasant, friendly chap).

Otherwise...the restaurant was packed and incredibly loud. Our food ranged from close-to-good to inedible. Desserts were pretty much nonexistent.

For example, the chicken noodle soup Tom Sietsema really liked? I can see how it is so, so close to being a winner. The flavor is strong (I hate wimpy soups) and the chunks of chicken are large and tender. Its accompanying flatbread is tasty and, I'm told, housemade. But my soup came with a layer of grease on the top. I tried to skim off some of the oil with a piece of flatbread, but it was an impossible task. Disappointing to say the least.

My boyfriend's entree, short ribs with potato gratin, arrived looking tasty but, oddly, without a hint of steam. Why? Because the meat was downright cold (not lukewarm, cold). Huh? He politely pointed this out and our server quietly whisked it away. It returned warmer, but...the hunk meat just wasn't good. My boyfriend is a pretty great home cook and when he got to the center, he pointed out that the meat looked freezer burned. Very disappointing.

My pork and beans...I don't know if it was just not to my taste or if it was nothing like the dish described by Tom's review. I was pretty excited to try this so it was a letdown.

As for the desserts, there are not many to choose from--just four or five. We planned to try the "seasonal berries" and the chocolate quad, but they were out of the latter. The strawberry lemon bundt cake didn't sound appealing at all and we weren't able to find out what the day's "sniglet" offering might be so we stuck with the berries which were no better and no worse than one could have expected for this time of year.

It wasn't a very expensive meal, no, but we still left feeling like Creme didn't present a great value proposition, at least right now.

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When Will I Learn

By JLK

In 90% of cases, it is a bad idea to go to a restaurant the week it is reviewed by the Post.  ...

It wasn't a very expensive meal, no, but we still left feeling like Creme didn't present a great value proposition, at least right now.

Well, let me be the first to say "Thanks for taking one for the team." I think I speak for most of us in the immediate area that I hope they can get their act together. (See Rocks' comments on the whole U Street area vis-a-vis fine dining.)

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The lady and I went to Creme Saturday night and had a meal that was very good -- perhaps signaling that this U St. spot has worked the kinks out pretty well.

I had the Dark n Stormy, while she drank the Caipirinha. The Dark and Stormy was delicious and satisfied my craving for ginger ale, while Marisa's caipirinha was, in her words, good "having not had one before."

For entrees I had the truly delicious shrimp and grits. The Andouille was spicy -- and this is spicy for me, a guy who likes his pho orange. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the grits had all the butter a man could ask for. I wish I had butter to sop up the broth.

The date had the "Mary's Charge," a roast shank of lamb with a side of ground lamb. She was incredibly pleased with the lamb. It is rare that she comments after two or three bites of a meal, but there she was, remarking at how good the dinner was. I had tastes of both parts... the ground lamb tasted almost South Asian (fenugreek?) while the lamb was a combination of savory and sweet that is not one of my personal favorite flavors -- though it is the lady's. The shank was topped with a spiced combination of apple that was quite nice.

My one quibble with Creme is that it seems too "New York City" -- though I do love the loungey house music, I prefer it away from dinner. But the kind service from the bartender and the quality of the food more than made up for this quibble.

Yes Creme is loud. Yes it is hard to get a seat. But the food seemed, after one visit, delicious while being friendly on the wallet. Given current circumstances, I hope I get a chance to go back. But not in less than a year.

K

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Tonight, I visited creme for the first time. Even though Tom gave it two stars and it's no far from where I live, I hadn't been moved to try it. I had been turned off by, of all things, their blue, green and white signage, which reminds me of Nationwide insurance company. Well, desperate times call for desperate measure. I have been in my sick bed for the last two days surviving on . . . water! I called my lovely mother to request the soothing chicken noodle soup of my childhood, but my mom was a bit under the weather, too, so. . . .

. . . I dragged myself over to creme for the chicken noodle soup, and, I must tell you, I was not disapointed. Rich, flavorful broth. Wide, al dente egg noddles. tender crisp carrots and onions. fresh parsley. The chicken was tasty, too, but I wish there had been more of it. I ate a bowl of the soup at the bar and got some to go (and I'm eating right now!). I look forward to returning to try the rest of the menu. It it not my mother's long-simmered, extra-rich cns, but it's darn good and the bartender and mo (who made my soup) were hospitable, even given the small amount of money I spent and the space I took up at the crowded bar.

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Had a fantastic time recently at Al Crostino [led a 25 person dining event, taking over the 2nd floor]. Creme Cafe is probably next on my list to checkout.

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The sauteed shrimp and grits is university bad, combining the worst attributes of a Sysco truck and a catered function, slapped together, bathed in a watery broth tasting of garlic powder, and emblematic of the superficial dishes that came from this kitchen.
Unfortunately things don't seem to have changed much since some of you last ate there. I ventured in there with a friend for the first time on Monday night for a somewhat late-ish dinner. I had heard from this website about the crabcake and the shrimp and grits and had to try them for myself. Well the crabcake was a huge disappointment. Yes the chunks of crabmeat were large, but they lacked any flavor. The spring roll paper was soggy and just seemed to get in the way while cutting into the crabcake. Even the mustard sauce that was drizzled on the plate couldn't resuscitate this $11(!) DOA dish.

A little bit better was my companion's dish - the roast shank of lamb. The meat was nicely cooked to the requested medium rare, but it was accompanied by an overly sweet cloying sauce. Still, the sauce could be brushed away leaving an acceptable piece of meat.

As for the shrimp and grits, I don't think it was awful but I don't think I'd order it again. The shrimp was overcooked by a couple minutes and still had that freezer burn taste, but the grits had a decent consistency and the sausage and onions provided a bit of a kick to the dish. But for $18, I'd rather spend my money on Colorado Kitchen's shrimp & grits.

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We had a nice evening at Creme Cafe about 2 weeks ago before the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It was nothing remarkable: we shared a mushroom appetizer that was a bit too salty. Entrees were shrimp and grits and the burger. My husband enjoyed the burger quite a bit-- it was medium rare, as ordered; I thought the shrimp and grits are OK but nothing special. I'd probably order something else if I returned. The service was extremely attentive-- it looked like our waiter was assigned to only our table. Anyway, I wanted to post to raise one question: we watched the kitchen staff use the microwave to nuke the chicken dish....it looked like the chicken was previously cooked and then re-heated. Also, the "microwave" could have been a convection oven, but it really did look like a microwave from our vantage point. We were collectively a bit amused: are microwaves commonly used in kitchens and if so for what purpose? Should this be something that is within the eyesight of the customers? Is its use "legitimate?" I would think it'd be hard to keep the skin of the chicken crispy in the microwave.

I'm not a chef so all I can base my opinion on is that one episode of Top Chef where the contestants had to serve Rotary Club members a meal was reheated *only* in the microwave (Successful: soup and a slightly undercooked fish that was able to "finish" cooking in the microwave; Not successful: quiche). It appeared to be quite a challenge, and all the "chefs" were grumbling about the unfairness of the task.

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We had a nice evening at Creme Cafe about 2 weeks ago before the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It was nothing remarkable: we shared a mushroom appetizer that was a bit too salty. Entrees were shrimp and grits and the burger. My husband enjoyed the burger quite a bit-- it was medium rare, as ordered; I thought the shrimp and grits are OK but nothing special. I'd probably order something else if I returned. The service was extremely attentive-- it looked like our waiter was assigned to only our table. Anyway, I wanted to post to raise one question: we watched the kitchen staff use the microwave to nuke the chicken dish....it looked like the chicken was previously cooked and then re-heated. Also, the "microwave" could have been a convection oven, but it really did look like a microwave from our vantage point. We were collectively a bit amused: are microwaves commonly used in kitchens and if so for what purpose? Should this be something that is within the eyesight of the customers? Is its use "legitimate?" I would think it'd be hard to keep the skin of the chicken crispy in the microwave.

I'm not a chef so all I can base my opinion on is that one episode of Top Chef where the contestants had to serve Rotary Club members a meal was reheated *only* in the microwave (Successful: soup and a slightly undercooked fish that was able to "finish" cooking in the microwave; Not successful: quiche). It appeared to be quite a challenge, and all the "chefs" were grumbling about the unfairness of the task.

Are you sure it was a microwave? I don't agree with it but I am sure most kitchens use them. I rarely use my microwave at home, however I still enjoy Creme Cafe!

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