Graffiato is Chef Mike Isabella‘s Italian small plates joint in Chinatown. The two-story restaurant is decorated with hanging butcher knives, potted wheat and graffiti wall art that resembles characters from the Gorillaz’s music videos.
I knew Graffiato was well known (and thus expected it to be pricy), so when my boyfriend and I checked out a menu after wandering around Chinatown looking for a restaurant, we didn’t know why the prices were similar to those at Vapiano‘s around the corner. We didn’t realize until after we were seated and saw the miniature portions on neighboring tables that this was indeed another trendy small plates restaurant. We weren’t looking to spend too much on dinner, so we just split three dishes, which I’m warning you now, is not enough food for two people! However, all the dishes we ordered were delicious.
I looooove asparagus. Fortunately, Graffiato’s knows how to make a succulent Charred Asparagus ($8) dish. The asparagus was served in a salty, lemony butter sauce and sprinkled with hazelnut nibs. The appetizer was good that I was scraping the plate in pursuit of the last drop of sauce. It’s been a while since this meal and I still remember exactly how the asparagus tasted. It was a very memorable dish.
When the Marinated Skirt Steak ($14) came out, I was disappointed by its tiny size. When I took a bite, I was devastated because it was just so good that being given so little was torturous. Two tiny but delicious pieces of steak were served on a bed of smoky sweet corn and topped with a green salsa and scallions. The salsa was slightly spicy, but the sweetness of the corn balanced it out. The dish was wonderful, but too small! Each piece of steak was only as big as the space between my thumb and index finger touching (like a flattened out “OK” symbol)!
We waited for our Hand Cut Spaghetti ($11) for quite a while. I watched other tables that were seated after us get their food first. I was getting hungry and I wanted to know why tables weren’t given bread to complement their meals (and help satiate diners hungry from the tiny portions)! Just at that moment, our waitress came over with a plate of bread slices to appease us for having to wait so long. When the spaghetti finally came out, the waitress told us that the chef was unhappy with how the first dish came out, so (s)he remade it. I can say that that’s the first time that has ever happened to me in a restaurant; I thought only Gordon Ramsay sent things back to the kitchen! With the chef’s blessing, I devoured this fresh pasta dish. It was a simple tomato-and-olive oil concoction that proved that even simple can be delicious. The tomato flavor was powerful and tasty. The chef and I approve!
The Bottom Line:
Everything I had at Graffiato was delicious, I just didn’t go in expecting it to be a small plates place so I wasn’t prepared to spend a lot of money on my meal. I think the best thing to order as part of your meal is a pizza, because they aren’t ridiculously small and are pretty filling.
707 6th St NW (Chinatown/Penn Quarter)
Washington, DC 20001