German and Eastern European cuisines tend to be known for hearty, heavy dishes (hello schnitzel). But chef Brittanny Anderson is looking to highlight lighter, healthier food—with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options—at her new Capitol Hill restaurant Leni, opening Friday, November 13.
Leni is the latest addition to the Roost, the recently debuted food hall from Neighborhood Restaurant Group (the folks behind Iron Gate, ChurchKey, Bluejacket). And while Anderson is new to DC, the James Beard-nominated chef is well-established in Richmond, where she operates German restaurant Metzger Bar & Butchery and French-Italian Alps-inspired spot Brenner Pass.
Leni is a more casual venture, and Anderson is looking to embrace 1970s Eastern European health food trends, including lots of whole grains and ferments, “but maybe done in different ways that you may not be expecting.”
The all-day operation starts things off with breakfast sandwiches—including one with bratwurst—as well as a seeded-oat-muesli-and-yogurt dish with warming spices, grated apple, and carrot jam. “It’s kind of like an upgrade on the yogurt parfait,” Anderson says.
Leni features a series of “rostis” (potato pancakes) and “toastis” (rye or pumpernickel bread toast). Choose toppings such as cured Arctic char with housemade caraway quark cheese, or marinated roasted beets with cashew yogurt and chili crunch. There are also several bowls and salads, including a roast-chicken Caesar with paprikash dressing and a mix of greens with beets, sauerkraut, rye berries, and lemon-dill vinaigrette.
Most of the menu is available all-day, but there are also some dinner plates. In Richmond, Anderson says she’s known for her whole roast chicken. In DC, she’s doing a half version with a smoky coriander rub and rye aioli. There’s also a roasted honeynut squash with cashew yogurt, pumpkin seed chili crunch, and a maple-mustard glaze.
Down the line, Anderson says she’d like to collaborate with The Roost’s other concepts. For example, she’s like to do an ice cream sundae with custard ship State Fair or using the pizza oven at Slice Joint for some breads or sweet pretzels.
Leni doesn’t have its own seating, but you can order from its menu at neighboring beer bar Shelter. The food is also available for pickup and delivery.
Leni at The Roost. 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NE.