Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
This First Look drops by brand new "modern Mexican" restaurant Crios, owned by the same proprietors as next door neighbor Scion and inhabiting the former Vento space.
I made no bones about the fact that I thought Vento was very much a hotel restaurant, in that the decor was the same drab orange and brown that you might find in any number of hotel rooms. While retaining the same fundamental layout, Crios makes some improvements on the interior, coating most of the restaurant in electric blue and pink paint. This includes everything from footprints on the black glazed floor, bright paintings and picnic tables outside, and the staff's t-shirts. Still, the old space peeks through: from the obvious architectural remnants (an exposed ceiling, a layout of square bar/lounge to the right, and diverse seating to the left) to other fungible decorative aspects (a reedy brown straw wallpaper, the same orange and brown lounge furniture).
Trying to grab a quick bite by myself, I sat at the bar and took the bartender's suggestions on just about everything. It being the first week, the margaritas were still half off and I ordered one which was fine (albeit a bit thin). With a mind to try more rather than less, I decided against the house specialities (all-entree sized) and just asked for my server's suggestions. He pointed out the crab queso fundido (lump crabmeat, peppers, queso blend) and the Dr. Pepper carnitas tacos (braised pork shoulder, arugala, chipotle adobo, queso). Serendipitously, that's what I was eyeing anyway.
The first bad sign was the speed at which the plates came out. Granted, I wasn't ordering anything too crazy, but part of me felt a little disconcerted that they could be finished in under 10 minutes. Now, I know to always give restaurants the benefit of the doubt when they're still brand new; the kitchen after all is still working out its kinks. Still, the two dishes still left something to be desired. The queso had little to no actual crabmeat in it (at least none that I could detect), and a stranger might be forgiven thinking that there was no difference between what I had and regular queso. For all I know they just spritzed some crab juice over it. The accompanying chips were stale, and not in the "oh a few of them are dry" sort of way, but in an aggressively flat way (so much so that I'm positive I bit into something resembling a piece of grit which shocked my molars).
Perhaps part of it is opening jitters, but for two of the dishes that were recommended, just not a strong start.
Food Rating: * 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Quiet Drinks
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)