Every chef has his or her own style: Certain ones open a restaurant every couple of years (see Jeff and Barbara Black), while others, like former Smith Commons toque Frederik de Pue, debut two nearly simultaneously. While word came a few weeks back that de Pue acquired the former Penn Quarter home of chef José Andrés’s Café Atlántico and MiniBar, the Belgian-born toque was hush-hush about the concept. Now a release from the chef’s publicist details what to expect from Azur, a seafood-centric spot set to open right after the debut of his Shaw project, Table. Here are four things we learned about the new project.
It’s a little more upscale: While Table was conceived as a casual, European-style neighborhood eatery, Azur draws on the chef’s experiences in fine dining kitchens in Europe, such as the Michelin-rated Sea Grill in Brussels. The European-leaning dishes include the likes of bouillabaisse, moules frites, and fish baked in a salt crust, and cull fin fare such as lobster, tiger prawns, and crab from sustainable seafood purveyors.
It'll have two kinds of bars: Those hankering for a drink can start in the bar/lounge area, where a seafood-friendly cocktail menu is designed by Jon Arroyo, the mixster-mind behind the drinks at Founding Farmers and the revamped Farmers Fishers Bakers. In keeping with the fishy theme, there will also be a large selection white wines, bubbly, and beers, with organic drafts (a smaller selection of red vino complements the equally smaller offering of meats). Others looking to dig in right away can head to the third level, where a six-seat raw bar stands in place of the former Minibar; though a prime spot, we’re guessing seats will be a little easier to score.
It'll feature nautical design: Part of the reason de Pue is able to open the restaurant so quickly is that much of the interior carries over from the former occupants. You’ll still find a multi-story, airy space, though transformed from the Americana themes of the pop-up America Eats Tavern to a more oceanic appearance by Virginia-based designer Natascha Folens of NF Interiors. Nearly quadruple the size of Table, the eatery will boast some 135 seats, plus a private dining area on the fourth level.
It’s opening on every restaurant’s “favorite” night of the year: That would be New Year’s Eve. Let the games begin.