- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Everything from the speedy service to the perfectly executed house-made pastas is a breeze at Siroc, a recently opened Italian restaurant at McPherson Square.

What first impresses, though, is the friendliness and ease of the waiters. It’s a busy night on a recent Tuesday, but they’re not rushed. They’re knowledgeable about the food without sounding rehearsed, and, most important, they have no airs.

That’s really what is most striking about Siroc. There is no pretension: no superstar chef (although Martin Lackovic, veteran of such places as Galileo and the Caucus Room, should be), no overcomplicated food, no snarky hostess, no one-week wait for a table, no $35 entrees.

It’s easy and instantly familiar, like a favorite neighborhood restaurant (in fact, it calls itself a trattoria on the Web site), except the food is much better and much more sophisticated. The pleasing presentations alone are worth a visit. The menu refers to the food as “Italian influenced contemporary cuisine”; we call it exquisite.

Take the cappellacci filled with lobster and roasted corn and served with a sweet-pepper sauce and chervil. Can’t beat it, especially not at $23. It’s perfectly cooked al dente, which plays nicely with the other textures: the creamy sauce, the flaky lobster and the smooth and squirting corn.

The veal osso buco — although it soon will be taken off the menu in favor of lighter summer fare — also should not be missed. It’s so tender, you really don’t need a knife. The meat portion is generous and includes a hearty helping of creamy Parmesan polenta topped with gremolata (whose acidity helps cut some of the richness of the cheesy polenta) and a small serving of braised vegetables.

If the osso buco happens to be blown off the menu for the season before you make it in, make sure to stop by come fall for a helping.

Other winners include the fresh and nicely composed salads, such as the arugula with aged Gouda, roasted golden beets and toasted pine nuts with a lemon-and-black-pepper vinaigrette. It hits all the right spots with its varied textures — from crunchy to melt-in-the-mouth — and flavors — from the sweet and rich Gouda to the lean and tart lemon.

The half-dozen desserts clearly are not an afterthought here. They feature a nice variety of items, including, thankfully, only one pure-chocolate treat. We loved the warm almond cake with blueberry topping and a zabaglione sauce. What a winner: the slight but distinctive almond flavor, the textured moist cake, the creamy zabaglione and the sweet blueberry.

Siroc’s look doesn’t quite rival its top-notch food and service. It’s nice, but a little stiff and unimaginative: square canvases in brick-and-sand hues against white walls; white tablecloths, dark chairs and hardwood floors.

Or maybe, the decor is like the food and waiters and just lacks attitude. In all the areas that really matter, Siroc - taking a cue from the current NBA finals frenzy - is a slam-dunk.

RESTAURANT: Siroc, 915 15th St. NW; 202/628-2220; www.sirocrestaurant.com

HOURS: lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday

PRICES: $8 to $12 starters (lunch), $9 to $21 entrees (lunch), $7 to $12 starters (dinner), $18 to $32 entrees (dinner), $6 to $10 desserts

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: Limited street parking

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO: McPherson Square

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