Since opening in the spring of 2016, Conosci has been the little crudo bar that could. The 30-seat restaurant started out serving raw fish preparations but evolved over time to add warm dishes like risotto studded with crab and sea urchin, despite one major challenge. The chefs were limited to the kind of kitchen equipment you’d find in a college dorm—namely a microwave, toaster oven, and hot plate.
“They enjoyed the challenge, but at the same time guest expectations continue to go higher and higher,” says Restaurateur Michael Schlow. He wants to give Conosci its due by relocating it to a yet-to-be-determined location where the menu won’t be as restricted. “Conosci deserves a full kitchen for the kind of food that George [Rodrigues] has been putting out.”
In its place, Schlow is opening a traditional tapas bar. Named for its location at the intersection of 5th and K Streets NW in Mount Vernon Triangle, Calle Cinco opens Sept. 12 and runs through Oct. 15, and Rodrigues will helm the kitchen there as well.
In October, the team will decide whether to continue operating the restaurant as Calle Cinco or rotate in a new pop-up. Schlow says he has several ideas lined up but tapas make the most sense for the intimate space and the neighborhood, and he’s not opposed to keeping Calle Cinco going longer.
This is Schlow’s first true Spanish restaurant, but he’s a frequent flyer in the European country. “When I’m in Barcelona or San Sebastian, I have my big meals planned out, but what I love is hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar,” Schlow says. “The food is delicious, but there’s the community component that I love.”
Rodrigues has a long history of cooking the cuisine, including a stint under Chef Jose Garces. Most of the Calle Cinco menu will feature traditional tapas like papas bravas (fried potatoes), pan con tomate (tomato bread), and tortilla Espanola (Spanish omelet), but diners will encounter the occasional twist such as paella flavored croquetas or piquillo peppers stuffed with a mixture of cauliflower, raisins, and pine nuts instead of cod, making the peppers vegetarian friendly.
Other dishes include albondigas (meatballs), boquerones (white anchovies served with toasted bread), and an ensalada de pulpo (Spanish octopus, potatoes, celery, and smoked paprika). Finally, Executive Pastry Chef Alex Levin will whip up traditional desserts like the requisite churros with a hot fudge dipper.
The atmosphere at Calle Cinco will be casual. Schlow says they’re even thinking of removing the bar seating to create a Barcelona feel. Guests will no longer have to access the colorful dining room via a velvet curtained tunnel from Alta Strada. Schlow is installing a front door making the restaurant easier to find and he’s adding outdoor seating.
Bartenders will pour a selection of Spanish wines by the glass, late summer sangrias, sherry cocktails, and bottled gin and tonics, among other drinks. “We’ll have porrons for cava,” Schlow says. “There will be no glasses at all, we will make you drink out of the porron.” The glass pitchers held high above your head for drinking are trending this year.
The hours of operation are still being determined, but Calle Cinco will be open from the late afternoon into the evening seven days a week. They may introduce weekend brunch.
“The beauty of the concept is there are no real rules,” Schlow says.
Before Calle Cinco opens, Conosci will serve its $35 Restaurant Week menu through Sept. 9 in addition to the restaurant’s $85, 9-course menu and $135, 13-course menu. Reservations are recommended.
Calle Cinco, 465 K St NW