Later this month you’ll be able to order a magnum of Champagne to pair with shu mai and other traditional dim sum treasures at Bar Chinois. The bar replacing Prather’s on the Alley in Mount Vernon Triangle hopes to be a neighborhood hang and boisterous brunch spot.
While Bar Chinois is a joint venture between Chef Tim Ma and general manager Margaux Donati, the original owners of Prather’s, Dean Mosones and Mark Minicucci, are also partners. They first tapped Ma to be the executive chef of their original restaurant in 2019, but the group decided during the pandemic that it was time to go in a new direction together.
(During the transition the space housed American Chinese pop-up Lucky Danger, which is seeking a new space to operate out of in the District. For now you can find the restaurant from Ma and Andrew Chiou in Arlington.)
“A dim sum bar came up,” Ma explains. “We’ll have to change perception of what the service style is. There won’t be roving carts. But dim sum is delicious food for when you drink.” He’s keeping the menu short, with only about 14 items including shrimp har gow, steamed pork buns, curry chicken spring rolls, and sesame balls.
When a door closes for Ma, another one always seems to open. After Kyirisan went dark in Shaw he turned his focus to American Son in the Eaton Hotel. He recently passed that baton to Chef Matt Baker, who is remaking the hotel lobby restaurant into Michele’s. At Bar Chinois, Ma is keeping things simple and having a little more fun with the help of Donati.
Donati previously served as the beverage director at Chaplin’s and Zeppelin. She brings her knowledge of French wine to Bar Chinois, which will have an all-French wine list with about 80 options. “The focus is doing bottles to get the party going,” she says. Since diners will be sharing dim sum dishes, she imagines groups splitting bottles or even magnums as they progress through a meal. “Who doesn’t love Champagne and dumplings? No one would argue that’s a bad pairing.”
As the bar manager, Jacob Simpson is putting together a cocktail menu that’s both appropriate for dim sum and keeps with the French theme. Simpson will lean heavily on spirits, liqueurs, and aperitifs from France like Lillet and ST-GERMAIN. A number of cocktails will be infused with tea. Others will be light and refreshing and made with shrubs. Teaism will provide Bar Chinois with its tea selection, according to Donati.
Bar Chinois will have 36 seats in the dining room, 24 seats at the bar, and 24 seats on a patio. Evening hours will be Sundays through Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Come early October, weekend brunch service will be available starting at 11 a.m.
“Dean and I are beyond excited to have Chef Tim and Margaux at the helm of Bar Chinois,” Minicucci adds. “In addition to their obvious talent and experience, they are great people and embody the energy and spirit we know our guests will feel.”
“We have big personalities working in there,” Donati adds. “We’re all super social and we want our friends and family to be in there. We want to bring you into the family.”
Bar Chinois, 455 I St. NW; (202) 838-9633; barchionoisdc.com