An Early Look at Sou’Wester (With Menus)

By: Eliot Stein

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Photos by Chris Leaman

DC’s posh Mandarin Oriental hotel might be an unlikely place to show off the sleepy, Southern side of Washington, but chef Eric Ziebold is seeking to do just that. His casual new restaurant, Sou’Wester, offers a Gone With the Wind vibe with gone-to-the-Eastern-Shore regional comfort food.

Occupying the former Café MoZU space, the restaurant invokes a distinctly different sense of time and place than Ziebold’s sleek destination dining room, CityZen. Diners catch their first whiff of Sou’Wester’s bucolic-chic seasoning in the lobby “sun porch,” where “country time” happy hour—with cocktails between $7 and $10—is served in wooden rocking chairs daily from 3 to 5. Inside, ceiling lamps covered in wicker resemble crab pots, sunflowers float in glass vases, and a spacious, breezy dining room looks out on houseboats bobbing on the Southwest waterfront.

“Sou’Wester is a moment back in time,” says Ziebold. “When creating it, we thought, ‘What is it that we’d like to eat in DC sitting on the waterfront? What represents the city?’ ”

Ziebold has charged CityZen chef de cuisine Rachael Harriman with overseeing the menu, which is peppered with updated Southern-style flavors (pork belly and pickled watermelon rind, roast shoat leg with baked beans) as well as Mid-Atlantic influences (Maryland blue-crab bisque, sautéed perch with Old Bay chowder). The fryer gets plenty of action too, sending out hush puppies, okra, crispy chicken, and even apple pie. On the sweets end, CityZen pastry chef Amanda Cook brings banana cream pie, brownie sundaes, and carrot cake to the roster.

But even the most hardened porch rocker knows you can’t mop up crab fritters, pan-fried oysters, and black-eyed peas on a dry palette. Sou’Wester’s traditional cocktails include a Proper Mint Julep and a root-beer float buoyed by Jack Daniel’s, while oenophiles can pick from more than 100 varietals. The bar serves Dom Pérignon by the glass, but if you’re looking for something more laid-back, you’ll spot Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon amid the microbrews on the beer menu.

“I look at this as a rural destination,“ Ziebold says. “Few people realize that Washington is a water town where people fish and live on their boats. Now, instead of going to Annapolis or the Eastern Shore to get that country experience, they can come here.” Of course, diners may want to scrub off a bit of that country salt and dirt from their fingernails if they choose to check in to the hotel: Rooms run from $495 to $10,000 a night.

Sou’Wester, 1330 Maryland Ave., SW, in the Mandarin Oriental; 202-787-6040, mandarinoriental.com/washington/dining. Open daily for breakfast from 6:30 to 11, lunch from 11:30 to 5, and dinner from 5:30 to 10.


Lunch Menu

Soups and Salads
Bibb lettuce with herb vinaigrette, $7
House salad with buttermilk-ranch dressing, $8
Cream-of-mushroom soup, $8
Black-eyed-pea-and-kale soup, $8
Marinated heirloom tomato, $8
Combo of any soup with any salad, $12

Appetizers
Crab fritters, bulb onions, and Green Goddess, $15
Chesapeake Bay rockfish ceviche, $13
Shoat rillette with pickled green tomatoes, $11
Rappahannock oysters with smoked-pepper aïoli, $13
Sauteed pork belly and pickled watermelon rind, $14

Sandwiches and Piccalilli
South by Southwest BLT, $7
Grilled peanut butter and jelly, $6
Yellowfin-tuna salad, $9
Fried-chicken sandwich, $9
Hot ham and cheese, $10
Corned beef and slaw, $10
Roasted-shoat-leg tartine, $10
Combo of any sandwich with soup or salad, $14

Entrées
Sauteed perch with Old Bay chowder, $20
Blackened bluefish with Cajun rice, $18
Grilled shrimp with rice pilaf, $19
Fried chicken with coleslaw, $13
Chicken and dumplings, $17
Marinated flank steak and sautéed mushrooms, $24

Side Dishes
Broccoli-and-rice casserole, $5
Beer-battered onion rings, $5
Grilled corn with espelette aïoli, $4
Hush puppies with honey butter, $4
Ham-hock tater tots, $3

Dinner Menu

Cold Appetizers
Bibb lettuce salad with herb vinaigrette, $7
Arugula salad with Parmigiano-Reggiano, $8
House salad with buttermilk-ranch dressing, $8
Heirloom-tomato salad, $8
Chesapeake Bay rockfish ceviche, $13
Shoat rillette and pickled green tomato, $11
Rappahannock oysters with grilled sausage, $13
Chesapeake Bay charcuterie board, $60

Hot Appetizers
Old-fashioned cream-of-mushroom soup, $8
Black-eyed-pea-and-kale soup, $8
Maryland blue-crab bisque, $12
Crab fritters, bulb onions, and Green Goddess, $15
Monte Cristos with piccalilli, $12
Pan-fried oysters with smoked aïoli, $13
Bouchot mussels, chorizo, and grilled bread, $11
Poached egg, creamed grits, and sweetbreads, $12
Sautéed pork belly and pickled watermelon rind, $14

Seafood
Sautéed perch with Old Bay chowder, $20
Blackened bluefish with Cajun rice, $18
Porgie crab imperial, $24
Grilled-shrimp-and-eggplant salad, $19
Chesapeake Bay rockfish and collard greens, $26

Meat
Fried chicken with coleslaw, $13
Chicken and dumplings, $17
Braised rabbit leg with creamed grits, $18
Roast shoat leg with baked beans, $22
Marinated flank steak and sauteed mushrooms, $24
Corned-beef short ribs and horseradish soubise, $24

Side Dishes
Fried okra, $5
Broccoli-and-rice casserole, $5
Twice-baked potato with minced pork, $6
Beer-battered onion rings, $5
Grilled corn with espelette aïoli, $4
Hush puppies with honey butter, $4
Three-bean salad, $4

Desserts
Pear crisp
Carrot cake
Ice-cream cones
Brownie sundae
Banana cream pie
Fried apple pie
Cheesecake with plums

Ice Cream
Cinnamon
Vanilla
Chocolate
Caramel

Sorbet
Lime Sherbet
Raspberry

Cocktails
Each cocktail is reduced from $10 to $7 between 3 and 5 daily during the Country Time happy hour
Tropic Thunder
Root-Beer Float
Bloody Mary
The Tantris Sidecar
Negroni My Way
A Proper Mint Julep
The Pêche Mode
When Life Gives You Lemons . . .
Strawberry “Daiquiri”
A Bronx Tale
The Revenge of Napoleon III

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