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Shilling Canning Company - Chef-Owner Reid Shilling's Wood-Fired, Mid-Atlantic Cooking at Navy Yard

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Thanks. Now I think I recall his saying something in a chat in regard to a query that he thought it was kind of meh.

And I have to say, the one comment on that review that it was weird the menu had no salads, especially in the summer, was a point I had totally missed.

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12 hours ago, zgast said:

Tom Sietsema didn't seem to be a big fan.

I can't read this, but here are some free-access pages:

Mar 31, 2017 - "Shilling Canning Company Will Bring Mid-Atlantic Cuisine to Navy Yard" by Jessica Sidman on washingtonian.com
Apr 3, 2017 - "Chef from The Dabney Opening Shilling Canning Company, at the Arris in Early 2018" on popville.com
Jul 8, 2019 - "A Dabney Alum Opens a Peak Chesapeake Restaurant in Navy Yard this Week" by Gabe Hiatt on dc.eater.com
Jul 9, 2019 - "Mid-Atlantic Restaurant Shilling Canning Company Opens in Navy Yard with Wood-Fired Chesapeake Cooking" by Anna Spiegel on washingtonian.com
Jul 10, 2019 - "What To Eat at Shilling Canning Co., Navy Yard's New Hub for Mid-Atlantic Cooking" by Gabe Hiatt on dc.eater.com

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My husband and I had a pleasant meal at the chef's counter, sampling 5 of the plates (one a "snack," one a side, and the others small plates.)

Far and away the best thing we ate was the Maryland Mushroom Tart, featuring hen of the wood, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms, veal jus, and madeira. At $9, it was a dear few bites but absolutely worth it, bursting with umami. I could have eaten an entire bowl of this. It resembled a mushroom pot pie in a teacup, an extraordinary mushroom pot pie. I would go back just to get this dish.

The biggest miss for me, also $9, was the Thick Cut Fries with garlic aioli, which I'd been looking forward to. I love potatoes in every form. These came arranged on a plate like Lincoln logs. There were maybe a dozen planks of potato. (I didn't count.)  I had read about the technique behind them, which sounded fascinating, but it turns out fries can be over-engineered.  The effect is to have the softness of mashed potatoes on the inside and crispness on the outside, which is a cool concept at least.  (Side note: I've had fries with that effect at Joselita, but they somehow worked better. They may not have been this thick.)  I also thought the aioli was a little too thin, but I'm not an aioli expert. My husband didn't have any complaints, though. He ate most of these.

Everything else was enjoyable and well-presented: Vines & Nightshades ($13) with tomatoes, squash, peppers, and herbs; Crispy Blue Catfish ($18) with succotash, "gazpacho vinaigrette," tomatoes, and pickle relish; and, Gnudi ($16) with sun gold tomato and Tomae cheese fondue,  baby summer squash, and basil. I sampled a bit of all of these. I thought the fish was especially well prepared. The "crispy" part was spot on.

We didn't order dessert but, since we were celebrating, they brought us two chocolate sandwich cookies filled with a lot of delicious cream. I was wondering if they were perhaps a variation on a macaron but didn't ask.

The ambiance of the restaurant has been carefully crafted. It's a beautiful place to have a meal, though sitting in the vicinity of a wood-burning oven on a day when temperatures were in the mid-90s was a bit surreal.  It must have been brutal for the people working right there.

While the overall design features are aesthetically pleasing, the stools at the counter are too high. (I didn't try sitting at the bar, but those appeared to be the same height.) We were offered table seats by the hostess when it became clear this was a problem -- I believe they were at a communal table -- but I had really wanted to sit at the counter, so I persisted. After having to be helped up onto the stool at the outset, I finally discovered later in the evening that the trick to climbing up on the stool was to start by placing one foot on the rung of an adjacent stool and then hoisting myself up from the counter like I was on a jungle gym. I'm short and not all that agile so I do encounter things like this sometimes, but these seats are very high.

The service was accommodating and friendly. It took until after we left for me to have the lightbulb moment that the Reid who was checking on us and making small talk was Reid Shilling. D'oh!

I'd like to head back in a few months and try this restaurant out in the winter. It somehow had more of a cold weather feel to it for me than a hot weather one. While fresh summer produce was certainly well-represented, none of the preparations particularly screamed "summer" to me. Maybe it's my hearing?

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Years later, we finally got back to Shilling, this time for my husband's  birthday. The horrible storms last Thursday meant we gave up on our dining outside plan, but they were happy to move us inside.

The fries were the best part of the meal for me. They've definitely improved.

THICK CUT TRUFFLE FRIES $18 Périgord black truffle,& garlic aioli

They're now truffle fries (our server said that's via oil, though the menu description doesn't make that clear) with garlic aioli. They were perfectly wonderfully browned and crisp, served standing up in a cup. They were magnificent fries. For me, that's saying something, since I generally prefer thin cut to thick cut. The truffle flavor was just a hint.

The other small plates we had were BLISTERED SHISHITO PEPPERS $12 butter milk dressing (for my husband but we shared); and, (for me) LANCASTER LETTUCES $14 shaved vegetables, fine herbs, St. Malachi Reserve, & house vinaigrette. The peppers were quite good, with the varying heat pepper to pepper providing some suspense, but the buttermilk dressing seemed a little thin. It may also have just suffered in comparison to the excellent garlic aioli.

The salad seemed a riff on a Caesar salad. I picked up the flavor of anchovy. There were only two thin slices of bell pepper or carrot amidst what was a lettuce salad. It was fine and adequate.

We had radically different experiences with our mains. My husband loved his chicken and kept raving about how good it was.

crispy potatoes, carrots, purplette onion, green beans, squash, purple cauliflower, & chicken jus

I had pan seared scallops for $48 that were this preparation (but the menu protein has changed in the meantime)

Karma Farm summer squash, yellow wax beans, brown butter, lemon, & VA peanuts

I wanted the scallops, which overrode my view that they were a weird match with peanuts. I figured I'd go with the chef's vision, but I think I should have gone for the lamb. The peanuts weren't the biggest issue, though; that was the lemon in the brown butter sauce. It made the whole dish too sour. Maybe it works better with fluke. Fortunately, the scallops were high quality and perfectly seared.

We enjoyed the meal and somehow managed to dodge the rain  both arriving and leaving. Overall, the experience was uneven--especially for a place at this level--but there's still a pandemic going on.


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Michel Richard used to say "Truffle oil is for lazy chefs".  He used to make thick fries fried in clarified butter. They were extremely labor intensive. They came with the enormous Cote de Boeuf. When people asked for sides of fries without the Cote de Boeuf, the answer was always NO. 

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