From Lauren Levine.
When word spread that a new, Jewish-style restaurant was opening up in Dupont, needless to say myself and all the other Jews of the District (so, about 30 percent of the population?) were excited. Homemade pickles? Matzoh ball soup? Meat that was cooked slowly and with such care that it just melts in your mouth? Count me in.
It was with high hopes and my loosest pants that I booked my reservation to try out DGS Delicatessen which recently opened at 1317 Connecticut Avenue NW for its only available Saturday night timeslot at 9:15. The décor was modern, the staff was young and the blown-up picture of a mid-20th century Jewish family at their Shabbos dinner table seemed completely out of place.
DGS offers a fairly limited menu full of Yiddish words and dishes that anyone with familiarity with Jewish culture (which we all know heavily revolves around the food) will recognize.
As a passionate pickle-connoisseur and amateur pickler myself, I was intrigued by their house-made pickles. The pickle plate appetizer did not disappoint; I was pleased to find a large arrangement of pickled vegetables, including cucumbers, carrots, potatoes and even leeks, made in both vinegar and fermented styles.
Of course, you simply can’t have a Jewish deli without some matzoh ball soup. Every family has its master matzoh-baller, and one sip (hopefully with the perfect proportion of ball:broth) evokes memories of big family dinners and begging your mom/dad/bubbe to make it for you when you’re sick. And DGS was able to stand tall next to the memories of yore – while the broth was a little bland, the matzoh ball made up for it with perfect consistency and flavor.
At this point, it has to be said – Chef Barry Koslow can be applauded for finding a niche in DC’s population and playing to it with homestyle dishes like matzoh ball soup and hot pastrami, and doing it with responsibly farmed and homemade ingredients. However, there are many local Jews who will not forgive him for opening yet another “Jewish” deli that does not serve kosher meat.
When it comes to entrees, at DGS you have a selection of four sandwiches and five entrees. Most of the dishes are Jewish in name and not flavor. My flanken was so tender it fell apart on my fork. And though the Tunisian spices were fun and tasty, I missed my great-grandmother’s traditional flanken, stewed for hours in onions and garlic, with carrots and potatoes served over egg noodles.
The shishlik, which my boyfriend ate, was similarly delicious, but their fish skewers were nothing like traditional shishlik of beef or lamb. Nonetheless, my boyfriend, as a kosher observing Jew, appreciated having a protein on the menu he could eat.
Post-entrée, I was giving thanks for my most comfortable pants, but I knew I had to go on. There’s nothing in Jewish law that says thou shall eat only until full. To top off our “Jewish” meal, we split the babka bread pudding. While there was no babka to be found in the ramekin we were served, it was rich and had perfect morsels of dark chocolate.
DGS is nothing to kvell about (especially if you have the word “kvell” in your vocabulary), and I wouldn’t bring bubbe or zayde there when they come to visit. And yet, the food is good, and I left content. You be the judge.