If an Italian-meets-Asian menu doesn’t make sense on the surface, consider the duo that restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang tapped to helm the kitchen at his latest concept, ABC Pony in Navy Yard.
Chef Paolo Dungca most recently executed a menu of Filipino, Korean, and Thai dishes at Kaliwa, and Chef Chris Yates‘ resume includes stops at Mid-Atlantic driven restaurants including The Dabney, Blue Duck Tavern, and Ellē.
Yates says he’s been yearning to focus on pasta, having grown up in New Jersey surrounded by Italian and Italian American restaurants. He’s relished collaborating with Dungca to marry flavors from different cultures as a part of what’s evolving to be an exciting strain of American cuisine that’s also on offer at some of Bruner-Yang’s other restaurants, including Brothers and Sisters.
The result of the constant collaboration between Dungca and Yates is a menu that warms up with small plates like clams in umami-rich prosciutto dashi or warming egg drop soup, and then moves onto creative pastas like spaghetti with XO sauce and gremolata. Yates and his team make all of the pastas from scratch. He’s a fan of French Laundry Chef Thomas Keller‘s pasta recipe, which yields a sunny yellow dough.
No dish at ABC Pony costs more than $19.
“I want diners to feel like they’re at home and there’s a family member in the kitchen cooking for them,” Yates says. “I don’t mean to be down on D.C., but one of my constant gripes is that it doesn’t have a lot of restaurants in that low- and middle-tier price range where the food is still chef-driven. I want to be that sort of place because we have this captive audience 14 floors above us and the neighborhood is calling out for a neighborhood place.”
ABC Pony is the main ground-floor retail of the Novel South Capitol apartment building. The lobby of the apartment building flows straight into the restaurant, which will be open from 7 a.m. to close daily. The breakfast menu will focus on diner-style platters and breakfast sandwiches. During the day a full menu of coffee drinks will be available from Small Planes, Grace Street Coffee, MEM tea, and Rishi Tea, according to coffee director Reggie Elliott. At night the drink menu is a tight selection of cocktails, wine, and beer in the evening. View the menus below.
Bruner-Yang named the restaurant, which also has the support of restaurateurs Eric and Ian Hilton, after one of his kid’s toys. “My daughter had this pony she would ride that would sing the ABC’s,” he says. “It’s as simple as that.”
The space is decorated with Bruner-Yang’s collection of pop-culture memorabilia from the ’80s and ’90s, including a library of VHS movies. Also admire the wallpaper showing tiny figures doing kung fu moves.
ABC Pony should open next week. Bruner-Yang says he is very careful about when he makes his debuts. He closely monitors which days are auspicious on the Chinese calendar and sets his target accordingly.
ABC Pony, 2 Eye St. SE; abcpony.com