Chef Shuffles: Susur Lee Parts With Zentan, Jennifer Nguyen Takes Over

The Donovan House restaurant moves toward a more Japanese menu.

Chef Jennifer Nguyen officially takes over the kitchen in May. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Washington’s Kimpton Hotel Restaurants are undergoing a number of chef changes this
month. First came the news
that Urbana’s
John Critchley was moving over to Bourbon Steak.
Tom Sietsema reports
that celebrity toque
Susur Lee
will part ways with Zentan
in the Donovan House hotel by the end of the month. Stepping in:
Jennifer Nguyen, whose résumé includes big-name positions such as sous chef at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon,
chef de cuisine at Morimoto in Philadelphia, and executive chef at San Francisco’s

Zentan was always a “modern Asian” restaurant under Lee, who’d travel from his base
in Toronto several times a year to oversee the menu, which mainly mixed sushi and
other Japanese items with Chinese dishes such as Cantonese-marinated steak and roast
duck. A release from the restaurant says while a fusion of cuisines will still play
a part in the offerings—blending flavors from Thailand and Nguyen’s native Vietnam—there
will be a larger emphasis on Japanese fare. Past experience with sushi,
omakase tasting menus, and
yakitori will influence the new menu.

The kitchen isn’t the only place with a fresh face at Zentan. Bartender
Josh Berner moved from Ripple
in Cleveland Park to command the cocktail program at the end of 2012. The new hires
are part of the overall changes at the property, which Kimpton took over last spring.
Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.