When I walked into Tel‘Veh Café and Wine Bar for dinner last week I was struck by the elegant atmosphere of the restaurant. The first thing you see is a selection of pristine oysters chilling on a bed of ice. The ceiling is tall, as are the windows that dominate the space. The dining room has an open and inviting feel to it. The bar was buzzing with people enjoying happy hour after work.
Tel’Veh is the new concept from the group that brought us the Mediterranean fusion restaurant Agora in Dupont. The name Tel‘Veh refers to the practice of fortune-telling with Turkish Coffee, where the cup is turned over on the saucer so the patterns that the grinds form can be read. An interesting name, and they serve equally interesting food. The menu has a Turkish vibe to it, serving small plates of mezze.
The wine program at Tel‘Veh is very impressive. There are more than 300 bottles to choose from and many are available by the glass. They segment the wines by-the-glass list into two sections:Traditional Regions and Unique and Lesser-Known Wines. So whether you are looking for a good old fashioned Cabernet-Sauvignon or an Italian Corvina, there is something for everyone on this list.
You have the option of two-ounces, five-ounces and seven-ounces pours giving you a cost effective way to educate your palate with some truly unique and hard to find varietals. Wine flights are available as well. They take great care to make sure the wine is properly handled and always fresh. Tel‘Veh is one of a few restaurants in DC that have invested in a Vinotemp Wine Dispenser.
I love oysters and that is where our dinner began. They took the care to shucked the oysters in a way that the left the natural briny juice (also known as liquor) in the shell. Tel‘Veh also offers an interesting approach to oysters on the half shell. They give you the option to have fish roe added on top of them. If you like briny, salty oysters like I do, you should try it. During this course I had the Melon De Bourgogne which is France’s official oyster wine. It was crisp and citrusy. A perfect fit for the briny oysters that were served with fish roe.
Next we had the Octopus, which was served with roasted peppers, capers and an onion vinaigrette. Octopus is a hard dish to get right. It has to be cooked perfectly for the meat to be tender. The Chef at Tel Veh knocked it out of the park. The citrusy vinaigrette gave the dish a bright and refreshing flavor. It was one of the best octopus dishes I have had in a while.
The mussels were another hit. They were steamed and served in a broth of fennel, tomato and Ouzo. Both fennel and Ouzo have a very aromatic and herbal flavor to them, similar to licorice but not overpowering. It accentuated the sweetness of the fresh mussels. It was a fairly unique dish and definitely delicious.
My favorite thing on the menu was the Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb. It was served medium rare on top of a bed of arugula, roasted red peppers and shaved onion. The crust had a very satisfying garlickyness with a hint of rosemary. The meat was perfectly tender and melted in my mouth. This dish parried perfectly with the earthy flavors in the Grenache-Shiraz-Mouvedre Yangarra “Cadenzia” from Australia.
We finished the meal with the Baked Camembert. It was stuffed with pecans and dried cranberries and came with garlic bread for dipping. We tried a very interesting Sauvignon Blanc with this, the Seifried “Sweet Agnes” from New Zealand. Most Sauvignon Blanc are dry, but this one wine underwent a special process to remove the moisture and concentrate the sugars in the grape. The result was an intricate sweet wine. It works great with dessert.
Tel’Veh is located on 401 Massachusetts Ave., NW. It is a great place to explore interesting wine and delicious mezze. The restaurant is beautiful and a great option to take a date.
- Shawn Keeley