John Wabeck is a favorite of the online food crowd. So it was no surprise one weeknight to see the youthful chef—who used to cook at Firefly and has been at New Heights since summer—holding court at the downstairs bar, explaining a dish to a rapt group of diners. Meanwhile, the upstairs dining room sat nearly empty. That’s a shame, because in the no-man’s-land dining zone of DC’s Woodley Park, Wabeck’s cooking is a bright spot. On this fall evening, a delicate pea-shoot salad was married with smoked trout and a twirl of thin soba noodles. A duo of beef straddled the Atlantic—on one side was a down-home chicken-fried steak, on the other a filet mignon slathered with pungent mushroom-and-horseradish duxelles. The glassy sugar panes covering a crème brûlée trio had just the right shatter. Sometimes a dish reads better than it is: A soft-shell crab drizzled with vindaloo oil sounded promising, but the would-be fiery oil and a side of raita-bound potato salad had zero personality.
-From the December, 2007 issue of The Washingtonian.