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After the unrelenting march of restaurant and bar openings over the last couple years, it’s hard to believe there could still be more coming. But things won’t be slowing down in 2015. Several long-respected local chefs are finally opening places of their own, while one big name is venturing into the fast casual world. There will be Filipino, Korean-Japanese, Peruvian-Chinese, French-American, and some damn good cocktails. It’s also shaping up to be a banner year for people who love vegetables; chefs are making them a prominent part, if not the selling point, of their menus. And yeah, yeah, Momofuku’s David Chang is actually coming. Here are some places worth getting excited for in the new year.
1222 9th St. NW (Blagden Alley)
Jeremiah Langhorne comes to D.C. from nationally renowned McCrady’s Restaurant in Charleston, S.C., where he was chef de cuisine. (Rose’s Luxury chef Aaron Silverman is also an alum.) But Langhorne is also a Virginia native whose new modern American restaurant, the Dabney, aims to pay tribute to the region’s local ingredients and history. Inspired by Monticello and other kitchens of the early 19th century, the 70-seat establishment will center around a wood-fire hearth (albeit one that’s more up to code than those of yesteryear). “There’s certain flavor profiles that you just can’t get any other way,” Langhorne says. “And also just the ability to be able to cook a whole suckling pig or do things like that.” The menu will highlight ingredients from the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, including plants and herbs that Langhorne grows from trellises in the restaurant’s semi-enclosed courtyard or forages. “We want to use as many indigenous local products as possible,” Langhorne says. “For me, foraging has a lot more to do with being able to get fresh things that really represent the region that you’re in than foraging for foraging’s sake.”
ETA: End of 2015
The bad news: Cocktail haven Columbia Room and its home, the Passenger, closed at the end of the year. The good news: Owner Derek Brown plans to relocate the bar into a space of its own in Blagden Alley (above the Dabney). Brown isn’t ready to comment on his plans for Columbia Room 2.0 just yet, but he tells the Washington Post the new place will be about five times as big as its intimate 10-seat predecessor. As far as I’m concerned, that just means more room to enjoy some of what will surely be among the best cocktails in the city.
11th and I streets NW
After rumors that circulated for months, David Chang made it official: Momofuku is coming to D.C. The northern Virginia native-turned-global restaurateur hasn’t yet shared exactly what’s in store for his 4,500-square-foot CityCenterDC establishment, but a rep for the restaurant says it will be a new concept featuring favorite dishes from across Chang’s menus in New York, Sydney, and Toronto. An added bonus: Momofuku Milk Bar, headed by pastry chef and fellow northern Virginia native Christina Tosi, will join the restaurant at CityCenterDC. Get excited for crack pie.
801 O St. NW
ETA: Late spring/early summer
Mintwood Place is getting an even larger sister restaurant in Shaw that diners will be able to enjoy all day long. Located at City Market at O, Convivial from chef Cedric Maupillier and co-owner Saied Azali plans to open from breakfast through dinner. By day, Maupillier hopes the 150-seat restaurant (with 70-seat patio) will be a more casual hangout where neighbors can read a newspaper or bring their computer while enjoying homemade pastries, egg dishes, sandwiches, soups, salads, and more. By night, Convivial will serve a French-American menu with a touch of Italian—like Mintwood Place—but with a greater emphasis on vegetables and smaller plates rather than the traditional appetizer and entree format. “I want people to be able to design the menu they want,” Maupillier says. But most of all, he wants Convivial to live up to its name: “It means everything that the restaurant should be.”
22nd and I streets NW
As much as José Andrés loves his jamón, “vegetables are sexy” has become one of his top catchphrases. And so his first foray into fast casual will center on sexy. Beefsteak, named after the tomato, will offer simple preparations of vegetables served bowl-style. Guests will be able to customize their meals with a selection of sauces and grains, or choose from one of a few staple menu options. Meat will be relegated to an optional add-on. Also worth getting excited about this year is Andrés’ China Chilcano, which will open in Penn Quarter in January. (It’s been delayed long enough that it made this list last year.) The contemporary Peruvian restaurant will highlight the country’s Criollo, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines.
3226 11th St. NW
ETA: Early 2015
D.C. is severely lacking in Filipino restaurants. You’ll have to head to the suburbs if you want to try some real lumpia (fried spring rolls) or kare-kare (oxtail stew). But this winter, Nick Pimentel of Room 11 and Genevieve Villamora will open Bad Saint in Columbia Heights with a mix of iconic Filipino dishes as well as lesser-known regional and seasonal specialities. Chef Tom Cunanan previously worked at Ardeo + Bardeo and operated Tarsier Catering, where he cooked “post-modern Filipino and American cuisine.” The restaurant gets its name from St. Malo, La., a long-destroyed coastal fishing village which was the first permanent Filipino settlement in what is now the U.S.
1344 4th St. NE
Former Bibiana chef Nicholas Stefanelli is breaking out on his own to open an Italian restaurant with influences from southern regions like Puglia and Sicily, where his family comes from. But that doesn’t mean the place will be seafood-centric: “Burrata is from Puglia. There’s a lot of salumi that’s from down south that most people don’t usually see here because they’re not the big famous ones,” Stefanelli says. The menu will have three-, five-, and eight-course options where diners can mix and match which appetizers, pastas, or fish and meat they want to include in their prix-fixe meal. “If you want three courses of pasta, you can have three courses of pasta,” he says. The bar will offer dishes a la carte. Located in an old produce market near Union Market, Masseria will have a large garden, a covered atrium, and an indoor-outdoor bar serving Italian aperitifs and wine. Stefanelli is heading to Italy in January for a research trip that will help guide the menu. Stay tuned for pop-ups when he gets back.
4000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Chef Jonah Kim (formerly chef at now-closed Baltimore izakaya Pabu) has collaborated with chefs throughout the city as one of the hosts of Mandu’s monthly guest chef series, Anju. Now, he’s teaming up with Mike Isabella to open a noodle bar and small-plates eatery called Yona—located right next to Isabella’s other forthcoming Ballston eateries, Kapnos Taverna and Pepita. While Isabella is a partner in the restaurant, Kim is behind the menu. Expect dishes that blend Kim’s Korean heritage and Japanese culinary training, including ramen, steamed duck buns, crispy Brussels sprouts with fermented chili mayo, and double-fried Korean-style chicken wings. Quick-serve dishes like donburi rice bowls and ramen will be the focus for lunch. Taha Ismail, who oversees the drink menus at all of Isabella’s restaurants, will put together a selection of beer, sake, and cocktails.
1015 7th St. NW
After 10 years at CityZen, chef Eric Ziebold said goodbye to the fine dining establishment, which closed earlier this month. But he’ll be back with his wife, Celia Laurent Ziebold, to open two places of their own in Mount Vernon Square this fall. Ziebold told the Post he’ll open an 80-seat restaurant called Kinship and a yet-unnamed, but more intimate tasting menu restaurant below it. The more casual Kinship, the newspaper reports, will have the air of a dinner party and menu divided by “what’s in season, technique, classic dishes, and treats such as foie gras and truffles.” Those ingredients don’t necessarily sound more casual, but they do sound delicious.
3207 Grace St. NW
Vegetarian taco purveyor Chaia sells some of the best eats at local farmers markets. And soon, you won’t have to wait until market day to find them. Founders Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon recently signed a lease for a two-story shop in Georgetown. The Chaia storefront will sell five types of tacos daily—all made with local, seasonal produce inside homemade corn tortillas. Among the taco combos in the repertoire: braised chard, potato, and green sauce, as well as market mushrooms with feta and red sauce. The place will also serve variety of sides and natural drinks, like honeycrisp apple shrub or hibiscus tea. Best of all: Weekend brunch means breakfast tacos.
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Photo by Darrow Montgomery