You may recognize Wolfgang Puck’s grinning mug from the Home Shopping Network or the frozen-food aisle. This week, the celebrity chef who made Cali cuisine famous will hit Washington for the opening of the newest restaurant in his empire—the Source, across from the Mall in the Newseum. Although delayed construction has pushed the museum’s target opening date to early 2008, the restaurant was completed on schedule and will begin serving dinner this Thursday.
The constantly traveling Puck, who owns 15 restaurants across the country and myriad airport cafes, in addition to hawking lines of cookware and microwavable pizza, obviously won’t be manning the stoves. That job goes to executive chef Scott Drewno, who worked at two of Puck’s Las Vegas restaurants before moving to New York for stints at the haute-Asian dining room Vong and the touristy lazy-susan spot Ruby Foo’s. Drewno says he’s spent the past few months in DC finding purveyors, meeting other local chefs, recruiting staff, and “eating out a lot.”
Also representing Puck in DC is his younger brother, Klaus, a vice president of the company who runs its “regional operations” team. Klaus is literally living on top of the restaurant—he’s leasing a place in the luxe Newseum Residences for the next six months to a year.
Aside from its journalism-inspired name, the airy, window-walled space has few conceptual ties to the Newseum. Similar to Zola, adjacent to the Spy Museum in Penn Quarter, the Source has a separate street entrance and lacks the hushed feel of a museum cafe. But while Zola’s design has some spy-themed touches, such as peepholes into the kitchen, there are no newsprint motifs or Woodward-tinis to be found at the Source.
The menu for the upstairs dining room—which Drewno is still fine-tuning—includes Asian-influenced dishes not found at other Puck establishments (roasted suckling pig with plum-fig chutney; lacquered Chinese duckling with huckleberries and glass noodles). In the downstairs lounge, a snacking menu will offer Puck signatures (smoked-salmon pizza from LA’s Spago; prime-beef sliders from Cut, his Beverly Hills steakhouse).
Diners and drinkers in the comfy leather seats around the bar get a view of the semi-open downstairs kitchen and its indoor charcoal grill and wood-burning oven for pizzas. In addition to the usual beer, wine, and cocktails, there’s sake by the bottle and glass. A subterranean private dining room seats 40, and there’s outdoor seating on an upstairs balcony.
The Source (Sixth and C sts., NW; 202-637-6100; wolfgangpuck.com) is open for dinner Monday through Saturday beginning this Thursday. Lunch service should begin in a few weeks. Plates on the downstairs menu range from $8 to $18. In the upstairs dining room, entrees are $20 to $36.