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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–3:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10:30pm
Fri 11:30am–3:00pm
Fri 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sat 5:30pm–11:00pm

Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1214 18th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 785-9525
Sesto Senso
It’s got a great location, and superb design, but the Italo-fare falls by the wayside

Given Sesto Senso’s connectedness and similar aesthetic to the throbbing nightclub beneath, Andalu, it might surprise you that the restaurant’s look works. It works in a way that you wouldn’t expect it to. It’s decked out in full-on faux-regal style. Dark reds and deep blues have the potential to sink the whole place into heavy gloom. Light fixtures that could be macabre are instead retro-hip. Blue, yellow, and beige seat cushions have vertical stripes; they’re as boring as a JCPenney suit, but they blend in well. Evenly spaced mirrors help make the place feel bigger than it already is, and a loft area means that ceilings are quite high. Dark woods at the bar make you feel comfortable. It all sets the stage for the food.

Too bad the food here is only mediocre. Fried calamari, that comfort food for the ages, come with a thick but underseasoned breading; their accompanying spicy marinara could use some more kick. The squid rings, at least, aren’t too chewy. Pizzas come without a properly seared crust—which pretty much ruins the party. And some combinations are mind-boggling. Take, for instance, the “Scoglio,” which puts scallop, shrimp, and red onion on the same pie. Bad idea.

Pastas fare slightly better, though. Cavatelli come with sausage and a rapini pesto (a lovely combo that seems to be ubiquitous these days) and...truffle oil (something that is unmistakably ubiquitous these days). The oil is, luckily, used in moderation, so noodles aren’t totally overwhelmed in earthiness. Lasagne is made with béchamel (yay!), but spinach gnocchi with peeled tomatoes and asparagus is another attempt at innovation gone awry.

So stick with the simple classics. They won’t wow you, by any means. Perhaps the best way to do Sesto Senso is to get waylaid at the bar and take in the surroundings. It’s the visual attempts at creativity that ultimately succeed. Otherwise, just look at it as pre-gaming for a long night at Andalu.

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