An Early Look at NoPa Kitchen + Bar (Pictures and Menu)

Inside Ashok Bajaj’s first brasserie.

By: Anna Spiegel

On May 6, Ashok Bajaj’s rapidly expanding empire—which includes Ardeo + Bardeo, 701, the Oval Room, and Bombay Club—welcomes a new eatery to the fold. NoPa, Bajaj’s first brasserie, will be his third Penn Quarter spot. (Rasika and Bibiana are the first two.)

Unlike new restaurants such as Le Diplomate and upcoming B Too, neither the space nor the menu are meant to evoke a European eatery. NoPa is a brasserie in terms of atmosphere and style—a large, bright space with floor-to-ceiling windows, primed for a bustling crowd and geared toward an eclectic, all-day menu that allows for splurges or a modest meal at any hour. Designer Martin Vahtra, who also created the interior at Rasika West End, combined rustic and industrial aesthetics—think wood walls and deep burgundy booths juxtaposed with metal lamps and beams.

You might start out at the 26-seat lounge, outfitted with a mix of leather banquettes, tables, and high-top chairs. Happy hour from 4 to 6:30 brings 20 percent off anything behind the bar, including top-shelf sips like Johnny Walker. High rollers can purchase a bottle to store in one of the 18 “lockers” above the bar—the spirits will be incorporated into special cocktails that rotate each month, and patrons can gift friends drinks made with hooch from their private stash.

In the kitchen is chef Greg McCarty, an alumnus of both Jean-Georges and Nobu restaurants, alongside Bibiana pastry chef Jemil Gadea. You can start on the savory side with snacky bites like twice-fried chicken and blue cheese fondue, or opt for heartier appetizers such as Parisian gnocchi with glazed mushrooms and crispy soft-shell crabs with avocado-basil purée. The biggest splurge is the shareable $120 shellfish tower layered with freshly shucked oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels, and lobster, but you could just as easily drop in solo for a $14 porchetta sandwich with rosemary mustard or slow-cooked short-rib French dip. Steak frites options also range from a moderately priced hanger to premium dry-aged New York strip. Whichever you choose, save room for Gadea’s twists on throwback desserts such as warm strawberry hand pies with house-made fromage blanc gelato or a frozen “chocolate bar” with roasted almond toffee.

NoPa starts with an all-day menu for lunch and dinner, and will eventually roll out brunch once things are up and running.

NoPa. 800 F St., NW; 202-347-4667. Open Monday through Wednesday 11:30 to 10:30, Thursday and Friday 11:30 to 11, Saturday 11 to 11, and Sunday 11 to 9:30.