Branzino

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Conservatory. All photos Laura Hayes.

Usually when a restaurant operator trumpets that “D.C. hasn’t seen anything like this before,” they’re a little full of it. That’s not the case with La Vie. The 10,000-square-foot luxe restaurant, lounge, and event space at The Wharf looks plucked from Las Vegas, Miami, London, or Beirut.

Co-owner Mike Bramson of Social Restaurant Group is like a kid at an amusement park who can’t decide which ride to ride first whenever he’s in the new venue opening July 12. 

Perched above The Anthem on the fourth floor, the sprawling space has a bright white main dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a DJ booth, a “conservatory room” with velvety green banquets and twists of fake red flowers on the ceiling; a “chandelier room” for private parties complete with a fireplace that changes colors; and an outside terrace with a waterfall installation that overlooks the Potomac river.

Bramson says DJs will rotate through on Friday and Saturday nights. They’ll play vibey music during and after dinner. “That’s something we saw in other cities that we thought was very cool,” he says.

David Anthony Chenault designed the space, which has rich details like real lime trees, artwork masked by graffiti, plush textures, and as many chandeliers as possible. You’ve seen Chenault’s work at Pamplona in Arlington from the same restaurant group. Bramson hopes that customers move through the space during the course of an evening. “You dine, drink, and lounge,” he says. “It’s an experience if you walk through the entire space.” 

Because the restaurant is on the water, Bramson and his business partner Naeem Mohd opted to go with a coastal-inspired food with flashes of Mediterranean cuisine menu that focuses on seafood. Instead of French bread, meals begin with complimentary chickpeas in za’atar seasoning. The menu opens with raw bar specialties and then moves through mussel pots, appetizers, salads, house-made pastas, and entrées.

Some highlights include artichokes fried in tempura batter nestled on top of a pool of yogurt-based aioli and generous shavings of lemon zest; lobster ravioli with English peas, ricotta, and cherry tomatoes; a whole branzino that’s filleted to act like a bowl for a bounty of artichokes, clams, and tomatoes in a lemon butter sauce; and New Zealand lamb chops with herbed couscous, harissa, and tzatziki. See the full menu below.

The team of chefs created a burger they hope is worthy of the restaurant’s opulent atmosphere. It features a short rib and brisket patty with grilled onions, dry-aged cheddar cheese, and sunchoke relish on a Challah bun. Bramson says he got the idea for the sunchoke relish from a restaurant in Charleston, S.C. 

Burger

The drinks from Chad Spangler and Glendon Hartley lean more towards light and refreshing than dark and boozy. There’s an Aperol spritz made more exciting by watermelon and lime zest ($10); a cucumber nasturtium martini ($13); and a drink called the “Pink Peppercorn” with grapefruit, citrus, pink peppercorns, gin, rose, and anise ($12).

La Vie officially opens July 12 serving dinner only. After about a month, they’ll introduce weekend brunch. Weekday lunch is also an eventual possibility. 

The hours are Sundays through Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m. (bar stays open until midnight) and Fridays through Saturdays from 4 to 11 p.m. (bar stays open until 2 a.m.). 

La Vie, 88 District Wharf SW; laviedc.com

Lamb chops
Artichokes