On Tap Magazine: New & Notable: March 2019
“On Tap keeps locals in the know about the hottest new food and drink spots around town and the top culinary happenings of the month. Read on to get the inside scoop on what’s new and notable in the DC area.
Open: January 10
Location: Penn Quarter
Lowdown: Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj has performed yet another extreme restaurant makeover. This time, Olivia replaced American brasserie Nopa Kitchen + Bar. Executive Chef Matt Kuhn is still running the kitchen, but his cooking is now influenced by flavors from Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy and Greece. The new restaurant takes its name from the Latin for olive tree, evoking Mediterranean imagery like round glass wine vessels hanging from the ceiling draped in fishing net, a whitewashed brick wall and a panel of wooden slats dotted with flower pots. The menu features spreads like tzatziki labne and roasted carrot hummus, as well as various small plates including creamy chickpea ravioli, classic dolmades, octopus carpaccio and chicken bastille – a savory Moroccan phyllo pastry. If you’re really hungry, consider a large plate like the Portuguese seafood stew or braised short rib tagine. The showstopper on the dessert menu is a grand hazelnut profiterole crowned with gold leaf. 800 F St. NW, DC; www.oliviawdc.com
Vim & Victor
Open: January 10
Lowdown: Since becoming a father, celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn’s career has moved away from television, fine dining and fast casual concepts and into the wellness space. His latest concept at the St. James (a 450,000-square-foot sports and wellness complex) is a natural fit for the longtime hockey player. He’s distinguished Vim & Victor as a disruptor when it comes to food in the fitness scene, as it encompasses a grab-and-go counter, a full-service restaurant and a bar. Overseeing the dining option at this facility was a tall order to fill because it needed to provide something for everyone who might find themselves working out, watching their kid’s soccer game, getting a treatment at the spa, taking a dance class, training for an elite event or playing in an adult basketball league. The guiding philosophy for his menu is healthy, hearty and hydrating. That means you’ll find a seared salmon filet, an ancient grain salad and smoothie bowls alongside cauliflower nachos, a lobster salad toast, and a burger topped with American cheese and special sauce. The drinks range from wellness lattes and teas to smoothies and cold-pressed juices, plus cocktails, wine and beer. The counter menu offers breakfast sandwiches and pastries in the morning as well as personal pizzas and Beyond Meat sandwiches during the day. The St. James: 6805 Industrial Rd. Springfield, VA; www.vimandvictor.com
Open: January 21
Location: Old Town Alexandria
Lowdown: Alexandria is now home to an authentic taste of Mexico City thanks to the arrival of Chef Alam Méndez Florían. The owners of Mason Social, Augie’s Mussel House and Catch on the Avenue crossed paths with Méndez Florían while on a research and development trip in Mexico City for their newest restaurant Urbano 116. Méndez Florían has been recognized by both national and international media for his restaurant, Pasillo de Humo, and he has cooked in Michelin-starred kitchens like Noma Mexico and Arzak in Spain. Here in the U.S., Méndez Florían is using imported ingredients like heirloom Oaxacan corn, which is nixtamalized, ground and turned into supple and flavorful tortillas. His menu borrows family recipes for complex sauces that take days to create, like black mole on grilled Cornish hen and pipián sauce on butternut squash. You’ll also find various tacos, zippy ceviches, saucy enchiladas, bar-friendly starters like grilled tlayuda and plantain molotes, and of course, fresh fried churros to be dipped in sauces like chocolate and guava cinnamon. Drinks heavily skew toward agave spirits and syrups, including Mexican spins on classic cocktails (think Mezcamule and Old Oaxacan). The space feels like an ode to luchadores, with murals and masks displayed prominently. 116 King St. Alexandria, VA; www.urbano116.com
Open: January 25
Location: Union Market
Lowdown: If there’s one thing celebrity chef Adam Greenberg hopes you experience at Coconut Club, it’s fun. He may be an undefeated Food Network competitor with two decades of industry experience, but that’s not why he thinks his new restaurant and bar is worth visiting. He’s trying to recreate a simple kind of bliss: the way he felt drinking a frozen cocktail in a pool in Hawaii on vacation with his wife. The food and drink menus are playful but unfussy, with coastal small plates and island cocktails laid out on colorful patterns that mimic the bright and leafy mural on the wall. Dishes let the high-quality ingredients like fresh fish flown in from Hawaii overnight or local pasture-raised pork speak for themselves with simple but creative preparations. You’ll want to try the crowd favorites, which so far include the ora king salmon poke and the spam fried rice. Pair that with a frozen Mahalo at You Later cocktail or the Waking Up From a Disco Nap cocktail for two and you’ll instantly feel like you’re relaxing on a tropical beach. Instagrammers are welcome here, as evidenced by the social media handles and emojis accenting the menus, the whimsical serving ware (coconuts, plastic pineapples, sparkly disco balls) and the decals on the bathroom mirrors. Greenberg calls the concept “authentically me” and equates it to welcoming guests into his own home. Above all else, the chef wants anyone who walks into Coconut Club to find an escape and feel free to be themselves. 540 Penn St. NE, DC; www.hellococonutclub.com“
Featured image by Greg Powers.