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Chef Shuffles: Susur Lee Parts With Zentan, Jennifer Nguyen Takes Over

The Donovan House restaurant moves toward a more Japanese menu.

Chef Jennifer Nguyen officially takes over the kitchen in May. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Washington’s Kimpton Hotel Restaurants are undergoing a number of chef changes this month. First came the news that Urbana’s John Critchley was moving over to Bourbon Steak. Now Tom Sietsema reports that celebrity toque Susur Lee will part ways with Zentan in the Donovan House hotel by the end of the month. Stepping in: Jennifer Nguyen, whose résumé includes big-name positions such as sous chef at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, chef de cuisine at Morimoto in Philadelphia, and executive chef at San Francisco’s Ozumo.

Zentan was always a “modern Asian” restaurant under Lee, who’d travel from his base in Toronto several times a year to oversee the menu, which mainly mixed sushi and other Japanese items with Chinese dishes such as Cantonese-marinated steak and roast duck. A release from the restaurant says while a fusion of cuisines will still play a part in the offerings—blending flavors from Thailand and Nguyen’s native Vietnam—there will be a larger emphasis on Japanese fare. Past experience with sushi, omakase tasting menus, and yakitori will influence the new menu.

The kitchen isn’t the only place with a fresh face at Zentan. Bartender Josh Berner moved from Ripple in Cleveland Park to command the cocktail program at the end of 2012. The new hires are part of the overall changes at the property, which Kimpton took over last spring. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

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