Dish of the week: Ellē’s kimchi toast

Media Credit: Sabrina Godin | Photographer

Kimchi toast is served on a piece of sourdough bread made in the restaurant's bakery.

By day, Ellē appears to be a quaint bakery where customers can pick up homemade pastries and sandwiches. But guests can enjoy a sit-down meal during Ellē’s evening hours.

Ellē, which took over a space that housed Heller’s Bakery for about 80 years at 3221 Mount Pleasant St. NW, still includes the name of the former shop on a powder blue sign that hangs above the entrance. Neon blue lights illuminate the word ELLE on the front door, giving the entrance a vintage look that acknowledges the history of the former bakery.

The entire right side of the shop features a long, narrow bar and green marble counter. Small cream- and turquoise-colored hexagon tiles pattern the floor, and the walls feature exposed brick, floral wallpaper and mirrors lined behind the countertop.

Ellē is known for its homemade baked goods ranging from sandwiches on homemade bread, scones, muffins and doughnuts. Many menu items, like breakfast oats and granola ($8) and heirloom tomato and corn salad ($14), are also vegan and vegetarian friendly.

During the day, customers can pick up a baked good from the countertop and sit at any of the dining tables. When evening hours begin, an extra dining area hidden behind curtains opens up to accommodate more guests.

Breakfast and lunch runs from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Dinner is served from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m.

I went to Ellē for dinner and skimmed over an extensive menu featuring larger dishes like the coffee crusted seven hills flank steak ($38) and lobster ravioli ($29) with scallop mousse, koji butter, roasted squash and pumpkin seeds.

Since Ellē is primarily a bakery, I was excited to taste a dish that featured the restaurant’s homemade bread, so I chose kimchi toast ($15) from the dinner menu. The base of the plate is fresh sourdough bread topped with yogurt, fermented chili paste and kimchi, which can be any vegetable fermented in a spicy brine.

The toast was presented on an intricately designed blue plate with decorative flowers, almost too pretty to be disturbed by my eager fork. A layer of nori seaweed flavored yogurt, which can be substituted for coconut yogurt, was slathered over the crust and dolloped with gochujang – a fermented red chili paste. The thick slice of sourdough was heavily charred on the outside but soft on the inside.

Fermented daikon radish and whole kernel mustard added saltiness and acidity to the creamy and spicy sauces while caramelized onion and the char of the toast gave the dish savory and smokey flavors.

I paired the dish with a house-made jewell fizz soda ($7), which tasted like a mix of orange soda and coconut cream. You can order from the restaurant’s full-service barista until 7 p.m., when Ellē opens a bar for dinner that serves cocktails like the sainte-victoire ($13), a sparkling wine cocktail with floral liqueurs, apricot brandy and lavender.

Ellē can be a quick stop for pastries and bread, a casual spot to grab coffee or drinks or a place for an upscale dinner. Whether it’s a morning pastry or a dish like kimchi toast, you can always eat a plate with ingredients straight out of the bakery.

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