Sorry, sports fans: The televisions above the bar at Proof scroll through paintings and photographs from the National Portrait Gallery's collection.
Proof, the wine-centric Penn Quarter restaurant that was slated to open its doors back in April, then in May, then in June..., officially opened for dinner last night, following several nights of mock service for family and friends.
A few days ago, as new hires filled out W-2 forms and managers led servers through training, tax attorney- turned-restaurateur Mark Kuller gave us a tour of the place, pointing out every detail like a proud father.
The Enomatic wine system—which Kuller has yet to see in another restaurant—is the focal point of Proof’s 22-foot zinc bar, which was hand-crafted in Normandy. It houses 32 wines, which can be poured at the push of a button in two ounce tastes, four ounce full glasses, or eight-and-a-half ounce quartinos. Above the sleek contraption sits four plasma televisions, which scroll through a continuous loop of 300 images from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.
There's even art in the men's room.
Striking details abound. The ladies' room is done up with splashes of shocking pink; in the mens' room, there's an arty black-and-white nude that takes up an entire wall. Diners will surely notice these touches, but Kuller is quick to point out the more subtle accents, such as an antique Asian chest—"a tribute to our Chinatown location"—and custom-made tables with trays that slide out to hold wine. “The only place I’ve seen something similar to this is at Craft,” Kuller says, noting that Tom Colicchio’s New York restaurant provided a lot of design inspiration for Proof: “It’s super warm, rich, very inviting.” The food draws more influences from A.O.C. in Los Angeles and Avec in Chicago, two of the frequent traveler’s favorite restaurants.
Owner Mark Kuller says Proof takes design cues from New York restaurant Craft.
Proof’s menu, overseen by Asia Nora alum Haidar Karoum, will offer small and large plates as well as a wide selection of cheeses and charcuterie. When asked their favorite dish, Kuller and sommelier Sebastian Zutant (who has overseen the wine at both Komi and Rasika) both rave about Karoum’s sablefish—a hit from his days at Asia Nora that he’s tweaked for Proof.
On the charcuterie list, Karoum makes the chicken liver mousse and duck pork terrine in-house, and Pio Tosini prosciutto di Parma is sliced paper-thin on a gleaming Berkel meat slicer from the 1930s. Cheeses come from Cowgirl Creamery around the corner “as much as possible,” says Kuller.
Like any good tax lawyer, Kuller sweats every detail. But he says it wasn’t his perfectionism that delayed Proof’s opening. “It was the construction. And kitchen installation. Equipment was delivered that didn’t fit. That set us back quite a bit.” But finally last night, this first-time restaurateur welcomed his first paying customers. Proof, 775 G St. NW; 202-737-7663; Proofdc.com.Open Sunday through Wednesday from 5:30 to 10 PM; Thursday through Saturday from 5:30 to 11 PM. Lunch service is expected to begin in the late summer.
The Proof team (from left): Bar manager Ben Turkus, chef Haidar Karoum, general manager Michael James, director of operations Lauren Pagano, owner Mark Kuller, and sommelier Sebastian Zutant.
Tuscarora Baby Arugula, diva cucumbers, breakfast radish, sherry vinaigrette 10 Local Green Beans & Tomatoes, aged goat cheese, crispy prosciutto 11 Hamachi Crudo, Hawaiian black salt, olive oil, green papaya, crispy shallots 13 Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, haas avocado, nori tempura, wasabi-soy emulsion 13