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Equinox went on an unexpected hiatus in December, when a kitchen fire crippled the downtown restaurant for the better part of six months. Todd and Ellen Gray’s place reopened less than three weeks ago, which typically wouldn’t be time enough for any high-end eatery to find its rhythm, let alone re-establish its once-lofty credentials. But Todd didn’t fritter away his insurance-sponsored vacation on rum-fueled trips to the Caribbean. No, he worked. He rethought his menu—even rethought the way he approaches his ingredients. So when the doors of his place swung open again on June 1, Gray was ready with a new era of Equinox. His current menu has a “for the table” section that puts a mid-Atlantic stamp on a variety of source materials, from frozen foods (the funky bleu cheese “potato tots”) to Asian cuisine (the clean, crispy blue-crab spring rolls). Gray puts blue crab to equally inventive use with his squid-ink “risotto,” in which the butter-poached meat slots seamlessly into the fresh, oceanic flavors of the black-stained orzo. And what’s this? A chef trying to check his ego? Yep, with his herb-grilled and pan-roasted entrees, Gray is allowing his ingredients to take center stage, particularly with his Carolina big-eye tuna, which arrives at the table with only grill marks and a polite sprinkling of sauce and celery leaves. It’s fine-dining cuisine in which the chef understands that his ingredients deserve top billing.
818 Connecticut Ave. NW (202) 331-8118
Photo courtesy of Equinox