Top Ten D.C. Restaurant Openings in 2013
This should be a good year for variety in the D.C. dining scene. The most anticipated restaurants scheduled to open in 2013 feature Southeast Asian, Japanese, French, Latin American, Greek, Italian, and American fare, plus some hybrids. Veteran restaurateurs will expand into new cuisines, big names will make their District debuts, and a few longtime Washington chefs who had been working for others will finally open restaurants of their own. Fine dining will take a back seat. Modern takes on ethnic cuisines will abound. Beer will remain big. And the 14th Street NW corridor will only get hotter. Here’s our ranking of the places we’re most excited to see open this year:
705 6th St. NW
ETA: January (fingers crossed)
It’s been two years since we first learned that this ramen joint and izakaya is coming to Chinatown, but the lengthy wait and delays have only made us crave it more. Sushiko owner Daisuke Utagawa, former Think Food Group (and Minibar) chef Katsuya Fukushima, and 18th Street Lounge co-founder Yama Jewayni are teaming up on the Japanese spot. The two-story restaurant will serve Sapporo-style ramen downstairs, and drinks and snacks ranging from sashimi to yakitori in the izakaya upstairs. 2012 saw some formidable new ramen joints, but if anyone is truly going to challenge Toki Underground, it’s Daikaya. Also deserving an honorable mention on this list is the Daikaya team’s neighboring Japanese-style cocktail bar, Kiji Club (600 F St. NW), where Fukushima will prepare a menu of otsumami, Japanese snacks that accompany drinking.
300 Tingey St. SE
We’ve already gotten a little peek of what’s to come from Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Navy Yard brewery through its collaborations with beermakers across the country. Head brewer Megan Parisi and beer director Greg Engert collaborated with Florida-based breweries Cigar City and Funky Buddha on a movie snack-themed beer called Snack Attack and paired with DC Brau on a smoked wheat ale called “Embers of the Deceased.” They even created a Belgian saison with Pennsylvania’s Iron Hill Brewery using violet wood sorrel found by Birch & Barley chef Kyle Bailey. If these unique creations are any indication of what’s to come, Bluejacket will be one of the most innovative (and popular) breweries in town. And though the beer will inevitably be the main attraction, do not overlook the 200-plus-seat restaurant. Bailey and NRG pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac will reimagine a “beer hall” menu with items like whole rotisserie chicken with tarragon spaetzle and Yankee pot roast.
3. Unnamed Southeast Asian restaurant
1401 S St. NW
ETA: Late spring
Restaurateur Mark Kuller and chef Haidar Karoum have released few details about their new Southeast Asian street food-inspired restaurant coming to the 14th Street NW corridor. But given the popularity of Proof and Estadio, we don’t need to know much to know that Friday night reservations for this new spot will be nearly as hard to come by as a functional Metro escalator. What we do know is that the restaurant will put a modern take on traditional noodle dishes, soups, skewered meats, seafood, and more. The team took a three-week trip to Vietnam and Thailand to research the cuisine, the same type of prep they did in Spain before opening Estadio.
4. Del Campo
777 I St. NW
Chef Victor Albisu is going back to his Peruvian and Cuban roots for his first full-service restaurant, Del Campo, which restaurateur Jeff Black is a partner and investor in. The upscale South American grill will include a rotating selection of grilled meats such as wagyu skirt steak, short ribs, chorizo, blood sausage, and sweetbreads. Albisu is paying homage to his half-Peruvian heritage with crudos and ceviches, and to his Cuban grandfather (who was a baker) with sweet and savory empanadas. The bar menu will highlight South American street food like the chivito sandwich, grilled skewered meats, and fried meats. While the restaurant isn’t set to open until the spring, you will be able to get a taste of Albisu’s cooking at his Falls Church taqueria Taco Bamba, which is set to open by the end of January and also deserves some anticipation of its own.
5. Rose’s Luxury
717 8th St. SE
Chef Aaron Silverman, an alum of 2941, Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, and McCrady’s Restaurant in Charleston, S.C., will bring a whimsical menu with dishes like popcorn soup and Beijing-style six-day-aged duck to his first restaurant, located on Barracks Row. The prix-fixe $46-per-person menu will break down into five sections: cold, warm, pasta, other goods, and meat. Diners will choose one item from each of the first four sections and a meat for the table to share family-style. The restaurant will have an enclosed garden and eight-seat bar straddling the kitchen, but what might be most exciting is the upstairs dining room for eight- to 14-person dinners. There, guests will be treated to a parade of family-style dishes and wine for $90 per person. “There will be no menu. It will be whatever we’re doing that day,” Silverman says. “And there will be no set courses, so basically, we’re just going to keep sending food until you say stop.”
6. Le Diplomate
1615 14th St. NW
Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr will make his D.C. debut with a French brasserie on the 14th Street corridor. Details are scarce, but the restaurant will be inspired by Starr’s Philadelphia restaurant Parc. No chef has been named yet.
7. Fiola Mare
3050 K St. NW
Last year was a good one for comeback kid Fabio Trabocchi: His Penn Quarter restaurant Fiola was named best new restaurant by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and nominated for the same title nationally by the James Beard Foundation. Now, Trabocchi is ready for round two. His new Washington Harbour restaurant Fiola Mare will focus on seafood (as the name implies), an ode to his love for fish and his childhood near Italy’s Adriatic coast. If you’ve ever had the oysters, seafood pastas, or any fish entrees at Fiola, you’ll understand why Fiola Mare may be picking up the same awards as its sister restaurant this time next year.
2201 14th St. NW
ETA: Late spring
Mike Isabella is already moving onto restaurant No. 3. The former Zaytinya chef is taking inspiration from northern Greece for Kapnos, which means “smoke” in Greek. The 150-seat spot will have two wood-fired grills and five rotating spits for roasting whole lambs, goats, pigs, ducks, and other animals. The menu will also have spreads, breads, phyllo pies, and other small plates, including Isabella’s signature wood-grilled octopus. But the main attraction of the restaurant will be a chef’s table in front of the spits where up to 10 diners can pre-order a whole animal for their party.
9. Unnamed restaurant from John Mooney
1309 5th St. NE
Union Market proved to be one of the hottest food destinations in 2012, with places like Rappahannock Oyster Bar and Buffalo & Bergen drawing hungry crowds. We expect it will get even hotter with the arrival of a new restaurant from chef John Mooney of New York’s Bell Book & Candle. The contemporary American spot will source its ingredients from Union Market vendors and a rooftop garden, where Mooney plans to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
10. Unnamed restaurant from Ashok Bajaj
800 F St. NW
All we need to hear is the name “Ashok Bajaj” to know this place is going to be good. The owner of Rasika, The Oval Room, Bibiana, and other top eateries is opening his eighth restaurant in the Penn Quarter location formerly home to Zola. The still-unnamed American brasserie with “French accents” will offer burgers, sandwiches, steak, a fish of the day, a raw bar, and more. Bajaj is now interviewing chefs. He also plans a strong cocktail program and a wine list of about 150 bottles. “It’s going to be a little bit on the cutting edge for a brasserie. It’s not going to be your traditional brasserie,” Bajaj says. The “industrial chic” dining room with exposed brick will be more casual than Bajaj’s fine dining establishments, but not quite as casual as Ardeo + Bardeo, he says.
Eatery tips? Food pursuits? Send suggestions to email@example.com.