WASHINGTON — There’s a lot to look forward to at the start of a new year, and for hungry Washingtonians, new restaurant openings top the list.
D.C.’s dining scene continued to boom in 2014, and it’s not slowing down. Which restaurants will likely make the biggest splash? Laura Hayes, editor of Dining Bisnow, shares her predictions.
“If anyone needed a reminder of how much gravitas David Chang carries, all you need to do is look at the cover of New York Magazine,” Hayes says. “In December, his giant face was plastered on there, and of course, the article makes a couple of jabs of him being this culinary rebel, this bad boy, but what’s exciting is that he’s our bad boy. He’s from Northern Virginia, so it’s a bit of a homecoming.”
While the menu for the D.C. location is not yet set, Hayes says it will most likely pull from the 12 other Momofuku locations.
“I’m sure there’s going to be pork buns, and I predict that one of the headlines we’ll see in 2015 is ‘Momofuku runs out of pork buns on opening night.’ Everyone’s just so excited,” Hayes says.
Another restaurant set to open at CityCenter this year is Centrolina, from chef Amy Brandwein (formerly of Alba Osteria). The restaurant will showcase food from all regions of Italy; Hayes predicts brick oven pizza and seafood will have a spot on the menu.
“I’m personally excited to see a new female chef/owner come into her own,” Hayes says. “And what’s exciting is that it’s not just a restaurant; it’s also going to be a small market.”
Hayes says the market portion of Centrolina will sell products hand-selected by Brandwein.
“She just feels really strongly about having a lot of control and making sure that whatever you take home has a chef’s stamp on it,” says Hayes, who adds that the recent closing of Menu MBK created a need for a specialty market in the area.
“I know the residents of CityCenter DC are really excited to just be able to pop downstairs, grab an espresso, fill up a basket and either stay for dinner or not.”
Richard Sandoval, whom Hayes calls “one of the two godfathers of D.C. dining,” is also planning a new restaurant at CityCenter. Mango Tree, a Thai concept, will be one of the first new restaurants to open in 2015. Hayes says food won’t be the only focus at Mango Tree — she’s expecting the restaurant to have “a really buzzy bar scene.”
“Richard told me that he hopes people come in for a drink, stay for dinner and then return to the bar, so think of something really lively,” she says.
Sandoval, whose D.C. restaurant empire also includes Masa 14, El Centro D.F., Zengo and Toro Toro, will serve food from several regions in Thailand, so Hayes says to expect a variety.
Shaw, in Northwest, will also see a handful of new restaurants this year. And Hayes says the one getting the most buzz is The Dabney, from chef Jeremiah Langhorne and his business partner, Alex Zink.
Langhorne is “cut from the same culinary cloth” as Aaron Silverman, the chef behind Rose’s Luxury, which was recently named the best new restaurant in the country by Bon Appétit. Hayes says both Langhorne and Silverman worked at McCrady’s, a Sean Brock restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Dabney will focus on hyper-local food, and the menu will celebrate the mid-Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay, Hayes says. The restaurant will be in Blagden Alley, a historic stretch between 9th and 10th Streets NW that is also home to a few other restaurants.
“I think that in 2015, saying ‘Hey, meet me in the Alley’ will be something of common conversation, because Blagden Alley is really becoming this cool destination,” Hayes says. “You have Rogue 24; you have La Colombe; Lost and Found, a really cool little new bar that opened at the end of the year is there too. So it’s kind of becoming this hot spot that you have to wind around and kind of get back there to discover.”
Also coming to Shaw in 2015 is Cedric Maupillier’s (of MINTWOOD Place) second restaurant, Convivial. Hayes says the American and French food concept will bring something new to the neighborhood: all-day dining.
“Before, this might have been a little bit of a risk, because there really aren’t a lot of lunch options around there — it kind of clears out during the day — but with all of the condos opening up and hungry tenants moving in, I think there is opportunity there to fill the seats during the day,” she says.
In 2014, Laotian food made its first appearance in D.C. with the opening of Thip Khao — and the restaurant has attracted quite a following. Hayes says Thip Khao’s success proves that sometimes it only takes one restaurant to expose people to new kinds of cuisine. And that’s what Bad Saint hopes to do for Filipino food.
And if Bad Saint’s November popup was any indication, Hayes predicts the Columbia Heights restaurant will be packed.
“The line [for the popup] was as if it was opening day for the iPhone 6. It was snaking around the building,” says Hayes, who expects Bad Saint to open in early 2015.
“Ballston, I think, is going to have its biggest moment in 2015, especially as it relates to Mike Isabella,” Hayes says.
That’s because Isabella is opening three restaurants in the Arlington neighborhood this year, the most exciting of which is Yona, Hayes says.
The restaurant is a partnership between Isabella and Jonah Kim, formerly of PABU Izakaya in Baltimore. Hayes predicts that diners can expect noodles, ramen and small plates such as pork buns and Korean chicken wings.
Right around the corner, Isabella will open Kapnos Taverna, which will be very similar to his 14th Street staple Kapnos, and a new Mexican cantina concept called Pepita, where Hayes predicts the cocktails will be the star.
China Chilcano and Beefsteak
It wouldn’t be a new year without a new restaurant — or two — from José Andrés. Coming soon to Penn Quarter is China Chilcano, a Peruvian fusion restaurant from Andrés.
“You can get dim sum and you can get ceviche. He’s pulling in global cuisine from all different corners of the world,” says Hayes, who adds that the restaurant will also have one of the longest, most impressive pisco lists in the country. It will be an opportunity to educate diners about pisco.”
And Beefsteak, Andrés’ fast-casual and vegetarian-focused concept at George Washington University, is expected to January.
“One of the trends that people are talking a lot about in 2014 is being vegetable-forward and really celebrating nature’s candy, so I think Beefsteak will kind of play into that,” Hayes says.