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An Early Look at the Reserve
What used to be the divey Ollie's Trolley is now a candlelit restaurant and wine lounge.
Reviewed By Eliot Stein
Comments () | Published November 3, 2009
Happy Hour
The Reserve
Address: 1426 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-628-8900, 202-570-2238
Neighborhood: Downtown
Cuisines: Tapas/Small Plates, Modern, American
Opening Hours: Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11 to 2:30; happy hour 5 to 8. Open for dinner Monday through Saturday 5 to 10.
Nearby Metro Stops: McPherson Square, Farragut North
Price Range: Moderate
Dress: Upscale Casual
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Not Needed
Price Details: Starters $7 to $16, Main tapas $7 to $14

>> To see photos of the Reserve, visit our photo slideshow 

It’s easy to walk past the Reserve and not even realize it. Its two nine-foot-tall, unmarked castle doors are fringed by the scruffy Post Pub and a makeshift sign advertising “$5 palm readings by Ms. Alexis.”

Pushing past the doors and onto the lounge’s mahogany floor, patrons will find black leather love seats surrounding candlelit tables and an oak-paneled bar topped with marble. A carpeted staircase leads to the upstairs wine room, where some 250 bottles of reds are stacked in a floor-to-ceiling cantina and another 250 bottles of whites chill in a refrigerator.


“I’m going after professionals,” says owner Moe Hamdan. “I’m tired of going out and seeing people dancing on tables. This is what a true lounge should be.”

Between the mixture of brass and brick flickering in the dim lights, waitresses in slick cocktail dresses, and a wine list reading like an encyclopedia of world varietals, this lounge feels more like a plush, intimate dungeon.

The concept behind the Reserve came to Hamdan three months ago when he spotted a Craigslist ad selling the space formerly occupied by Ollie’s Trolley. “When I first walked in, the place looked very, very bad,” Hamdan says. “Lets just say I wouldn’t have let my pregnant wife eat there.” So Hamdan, a Northern Virginia native who has been promoting bars and clubs in Washington since he was 17, gutted the lot, hired French-trained executive chef Frederik De Pue to dream up an eclectic tapas menu, and designed the lounge’s layout himself.

“We’re a wine-based restaurant, so we designed our menu to be light on the stomach,” Hamdan says. “Both the wine and tapas menus are seasonal and change every three months.” For now, the Reserve’s clientele can choose from duck-confit pancakes, black-sesame-crusted tuna, or skewers of tiger shrimp—among other international-inspired dishes—as they jive to live jazz on Wednesdays or groove to live trumpet and congo tunes other weeknights from 7 to 9.

Click here for the lunch and dinner menus. 

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner; late-night lounge open Monday through Thursday until 2 AM, Friday and Saturday until 3.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 11/03/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Restaurant Reviews