It's rare that bread is one of the most intriguing parts of a menu. But the Komi and Little Serow alums behind Tail Up Goat are baking up some inventive loaves that aren't just meant for nibbling while you wait for your meal.
The southern Mediterranean-inspired restaurant from Bill Jensen, Jill Tyler, and chef Jon Sybert opened in Adams Morgan earlier this week. The menu offers three bread-centered dishes, including a charred chocolate rye with salt-crusted sardines; brown rice bread with turnips and crème fraîche; and a seaweed sourdough made with water infused with wakame seaweed.
"It creates this really super umami, fun thing," Sybert says of the seaweed. Wakame is also chopped up and tossed into the dough. The bread is served with ciccioli, which is like a pork belly rillette, and pickled fennel stem.
Meanwhile, all of the pastas—including a cavatelli with octopus ragu and olives–use bread crumbs. (In fact, the kitchen bakes some loaves solely for bread crumbs.) And a hen of the woods mushroom dish is served with a burnt bread sauce. "We char the heck out of some bread and then puree it with a bunch of ingredients," Sybert says.
The restaurant will also sell a limited number of loaves to the public when it bakes too many. Check Tail Up Goat's Instagram page for availability—it's first come, first served.
"We really wanted to cook the food we wanted to eat and serve the drink we wanted to drink," Sybert says. "I really love the most basic of comfort foods, so breads and pastas are the other thing that I'm super, super fond of."
The menu will always have a stuffed pasta, a fresh egg noodle pasta, and one with a semolina dough. Another highlight is lamb ribs for two, served with sumac onions and beets ($42).
While it might not be readily apparent, a subtle island theme runs through the restaurant. Some of the food takes inspiration from Sicily and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, while other aspects of the restaurant nod to the Virgin Islands, where Tyler grew up and she and Sybert got married.
The name Tail Up Goat, for example, refers to a local saying in the Virgin Islands for distinguishing animals: "Tail up goat, tail down sheep."
"Historically, islands have been refuges and they're also these amazing crossroads of culture," Jensen says. "And I think those are larger themes that we're wanting to tap into."
The eclectic wine menu aims to highlight under-appreciated, water-surrounded regions with bottles from islands (Crete, Canary Islands) and around rivers and streams (the Finger Lakes, Rhone, France). Jensen also makes his own fermented pineapple drink called tepache, which comes from Caribbean and Latin American traditions. Drinkers can have the beverage by itself or in a float with coconut sorbet.
Among the beer selection is the pilsner Presidente from the Dominican Republic. "In the Virgin Islands, you're either a Heineken drinker or a Presidente drinker," Tyler says.
The decor is likewise evocative of island life with an ocean-esque mural along the walls. "It's intentionally not too on the nose... It's really easy to fall into beachfront, cabana, tiki territory," Jensen says.
Continuing the theme, chalk artist/bartender Patrick Owens painted the outlines of lighthouse floors in the restrooms. (Fun fact: all lighthouses have their own unique floor patterns, like fingerprints.) And if you look closely, you may notice something else that even Tyler didn't see at first: "He may have snuck in the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star," Tyler says.
"I may have green-lighted something that they didn't know about," Jensen adds.
Tail Up Goat, 1827 Adams Mill Road NW; (202) 986-9600; tailupgoat.com
Photo by Jessica Sidman