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Costa Brava in northeastern Spain is one of those postcard-perfect spots with endless stretches of blue water and dramatic rocky terrain. It’s also the inspiration for Costa Brava, a new restaurant that opened last week at 1837 1st St. NW in Bloomingdale.
Owner Larry Holden—who went from working on the Hill to working in restaurants like James Hoban and The Front Page—first visited the region in 2011.
“You’ll meet people on the beach there, and they’ll invite you to have lunch with them,” he says. “I mean, who invites you to eat in their home after they’ve just met you?”
Holden wants the restaurant to have that same feel. Stone and terracotta-colored walls invite diners into the cozy 50-seat restaurant, which occupies two levels of a renovated townhouse. The 2,000-square-foot space has an additional 35 seats on the front and back patios, which will open in the spring.
But be careful of calling the menu “Spanish.” Holden is adamant that the food is Catalan.
Starters include pan con tomate (a toasted slice of bread with a house-made tomato spread that has a consistency of jam), papas bravas (roasted spiced potatoes served with an aioli), and gambas ajillo con chorizo (shrimp and chunks of chorizo sautéed in garlic, sherry, and white wine). Entrees include a grilled octopus over sautéed fennel and paella with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and saffron.
Holden grew up in a small farm town in Colorado, where both his mother and his uncle owned restaurants. Half-Italian, half-Spanish, his family heritage shaped his attitude towards food.
“Every Sunday my grandmother would cook for the whole week; big pots of food,” Holden says. “And I was in the kitchen cooking with her.”
Paying tribute to the first woman who welcomed him into her kitchen, Holden also serves his grandmother’s meatball recipe on the menu, which is a combination of veal, pork, lamb, and fennel, pan-seared in extra virgin olive oil and baked in the oven.
Costa Brava will feature a $25 fixed price menu until Sunday while Holden experiments with different items. After that, expect small plates from $5 to $9, and entrees from $15 to $20. Several desserts will also appear in the next few weeks, including a lavender cake, chocolate ganache cake, and rosemary flan.
And to drink? Cocktails come with ingredients such as Valencia orange marmalade, black walnut bitters, and whiskey infused with chamomile tea. A selection of Spanish and Argentinean wines and beers are also available.
The restaurant will also host a weekend brunch starting next month, which will feature manchego biscuits, Valencia orange pancakes, and a selection of egg frittatas. There will be live flamenco guitar performances from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Costa Brava’s kitchen is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Drinks are available until 1 a.m. for drinks or 2 a.m. on weekends.
Costa Brava, 1837 1st St. NW; (202) 680-8090; costabravadc.com
Photos by Elizabeth Kennedy