The Audacity of Opening a Spanish Eatery in José Andrés’ Backyard
The ironic thing about Estadio is that, despite its many pleasures, the Spanish eatery wasn't even owner Mark Kuller's first choice for his second restaurant. As Jane Black reported in the Post earlier this year, Kuller originally wanted to open an Italian place — until our downtown streets became slippery with pasta.
So he switched to Spanish cuisine, which I thought was a ballsy choice given the chef most identified with promoting the country's cooking in America, José "Mr. 60 Minutes" Andrés, calls the District home. When I talked to Estadio executive chef Haidar Karoum, I asked him if the Proof team had any reservations about getting into the tapas business right in Andrés' backyard.
Once Kuller and his team opted to take the Spanish route, they decided to be upfront with Andrés, the chef told me. They invited him to Proof and "told him of our intentions," Karoum says. "I think he was taken aback that we would do that."
What Karoum means is that Andrés was surprised, perhaps even pleased, by this show of respect. In return, he was "incredibly gracious," Karoum says. He even met Kuller and Karoum a few times in Spain and took them to some of his favorite restaurants and tapas bars.
"I can't say how generous he was," Karoum says.
Even though Estadio was, in a way, going to compete with Andrés' Jaleo in Penn Quarter?
"He's not worried about losing patrons" to Estadio, the chef suggests.