Owner Reese Gardner calculates that there will be about 580 real and fake tulips scattered throughout his three-floor restaurant, bar, and Champagne lounge when it opens on Dec. 26. Patrons of Irish Whiskey Public House will hardly recognize the renovated Dupont space that is in the final phases of construction. “It’s feminine and approachable with floral prints and crystal chandeliers,” Gardner says.
Gardner, who is also behind Virginia’s Copperwood Tavern and Quinn’s on the Corner, went with the name Tulips for several reasons. It was his great grandmother’s nickname and he wants to serve drinks in tulip glasses of varying sizes and shapes.
Patrons enter Tulips on the middle floor that has a bar for happy hour or for having a drink before heading downstairs to the dining room. Cocktails are named after varieties of tulips, like the “Orange Princess” with vodka, persimmon puree, brown sugar syrup, and lemon.
The first floor also has a menu of fancy toasts including duck confit with kimchi, papaya and confit shallots; beef tartare with burnt yogurt, tamarind, and sawtooth; and avocado with lychee and peanut crumble. Prices are still being finalized.
The 30-seat basement dining room is outfitted with two different floral patterns and will be available for reservations only. Executive Chef John Leavitt, who cooked most recently at Clarity and Water & Wall in Virginia (plus a short stint at minibar), will lead the kitchen with the help of Gardner’s corporate chef, James Duke.
The menu is simply divided into first and second courses. Sample dishes include Salt Spring mussels with preserved mango, kimchi consommé, and grilled herb salad ($18); lobster with roasted potato velouté, white chocolate, citrus, and Ossetra caviar ($19); and charcoal grilled turbot with cider dashi, squash, kale, and mole sauce ($36). The priciest item is a $63 beef tenderloin that serves one, with potato mousse, mustard greens, royal trumpet mushrooms, and black truffle foie gras sauce.
Gardner thinks the neighborhood is ready for this level of dining. “We think this fits better with the neighborhood now because the droves of 21-year-olds that want Fireball shots and three-dollar beers just aren’t here anymore,” Gardner says, speculating that they’re now in Arlington. Dupont has grown up over the past three years, according to Gardner. “I think I’ve grown up a little bit too.”
The top level of Tulips is a Champagne lounge. After dinner, guests will be invited to the lounge for a glass of Champagne or a Champagne cocktail. Whichever chef is working the kitchen will visit diners to check in post-meal and answer any questions. Walk-ins are also welcome at the lounge, where the cocktail menu and toast selections will also be served.
In the winter, Tulips’ patio will hold a giant Christmas tree where can pose for people to pose in front of for photos. Come summer, Gardner says he’ll put out about six tables with white tablecloths for those with dinner reservations.
When Tulips opens Dec. 26, it will be openly nightly from 4 p.m. to about 1 a.m. For New Year’s Eve, everyone who books a dinner reservation will get access to an open bar of Champagne on the top two floors.
“It’s not easy to pull off three floors with three distinct feels,” Gardner says. “We hope that people will transition from one floor to the next to get all three experiences throughout the night.”
Tulips, 1207 19th St. NW, tulipsdc.com