Former minibar by José Andrés head chef Josh Hermias is developing a new restaurant uniquely combining a tasting menu paired with classical music performances. The dishes and the compositions at Parsifal will be designed to play off each other to create an immersive dining experience.
Plant-based cuisine will play a prominent role, though Hermias is unsure if the venture will be exclusively vegetarian. Several nights a week, the 12-18-seat restaurant will feature the fine dining and music experience, while other nights it will act as something more casual, such as a wine bar. Hermias is still looking for a location in D.C.
Parsifal will have a classical or traditional musician on staff, probably a violinist, cellist, or pianist. They will handle the performances and oversee the use of the venue as a practice space for other local classical and traditional musicians when the restaurant isn’t open. “The goal is to combine fine dining, music, and a community-based element,” Hermias says.
The venture is the culmination of more than a decade of working in local kitchens. Hermias’ resume includes stints at Ripple, Cork Wine Bar, CityZen, and Vegetate—a pioneering Shaw vegetarian restaurant that closed in 2009. He was head chef at minibar from summer 2015 until early 2018. Currently, he works as a consultant to real estate developers, helping them place bars and restaurants in their buildings.
Parsifal is a reference to one of opera composer Richard Wagner’sworks, which traces the story of the Arthurian knight of the same name on his quest to find the Holy Grail. In one scene, a swan is killed. The bowman who shot it is chastised, because the bird is considered a holy animal. Some scholars have tied this scene to Wagner’s non-musical writings advocating for a vegetarian diet, though there is no proof he fully adopted the regimen himself. “I was looking for a name that combined music and food, but I wanted it to be less on the head,” Hermias says.
Though Hermias says he’s “not a professional by any stretch of the imagination,” he does consider himself a lifelong student of music. He took piano, violin, and voice lessons as a child. These days, he sings tenor with the Cathedral Choral Society at Washington National Cathedral and takes online composition classes with Berklee College of Music.
Hermias has given diners two opportunities to experience Parsifal at Woodmoor Supper Club. Kyley McGeeney, who is behind the popular @missionmichelin Instagram account, hosts the ticketed in-home dinner series. Chefs cook for up to 22 guests using McGeeney’s modest kitchen.
A number of high-profile chefs, including Aaron Silverman (Pineapple and Pearls, Rose’s Luxury, Little Pearl), Reverie’s Johnny Spero, and Nick Stefanelli (Masseria, Officina) have participated in Woodmoor Supper Club so far.
“I like the format because it gives our community the chance to test out ideas, try new things, and experiment a bit,” Hermias says.
At a dinner this month, Hermias served an entirely plant-based menu save for one lone scallop. Dishes included a hollowed out red onion filled with a mixture of tomato, onion, and masa, and crowned with a broccoli flower; shaved potato mimicking tagliatelle complemented by sumac and preserved lemon; and roasted celery root with Madeira sauce and black truffles.
The meal was accompanied by performances by cellist Sean Neidlinger, who played pieces by Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche (yes, Nietzsche the philosopher), and John Cage—all chosen because they were vegetarian at some point or espoused vegetarian philosophies.
Hermias will continue to refine his vision for the restaurant at further pop-up dinners, which he will announce on Instagram @joshwed.