Chef Frank Ruta put in his notice at Grill Room this morning. He will be leaving near the end of October to lead the kitchen of a new upscale French-American restaurant from Hakan Ilhan, the restaurateur behind L’Hommage Bistro Francais, Ottoman Taverna, Alba Osteria, and others. He’ll be joined by his longtime pastry chef Aggie Chin.
Although early reports called the restaurant at Plateau, Ruta says they haven’t officially settled on a name yet. (UPDATE: The restaurant will be named Mirabelle, after a small yellowish plum. Ruta suggested the name, and Ilhan discovered the fruit originates from Turkey, where he’s originally from.)
Coincidentally, Ruta had looked the same address—900 16th St. Northwest—for a potential wood-burning bagel shop after his Cleveland Park restaurant Palena closed. “At that time, it was a hole in the ground,” Ruta says. “I took the job [at Grill Room] and forgot all about it.”
Ruta says he wasn’t looking to leave Grill Room, but when Ilhan called him, he liked the the restaurateur’s idea for an unstuffy fine dining establishment and, obviously, the location. The restaurant will be “a little more elevated” than Ilhan’s other French restaurant, L’Hommage Bistro. Ruta says the menu will harken back to the kind of French-influenced food he produced in the back room of Palena.
“It’s going to be things that sometimes are familiar but maybe we do them with a new contemporary twist,” Ruta says. For example, the chef isn’t ruling out signature dishes like his roast chicken and burger—”I’m sure it will be some sort of evolution of what that was.”
The restaurant isn’t slated to open until March, so there aren’t a lot of menu details yet. Ruta is thinking about possibly serving some kind of tasting menu in addition to the a la carte offerings. He’s also interested in some less traditional tableside preparations.
The place will likely be open breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ruta wants to go out strong at Grill Room, but he is looking forward to focusing just on the dining room—not room service and the other obligations than come with working in a hotel.
“All the other parts of the hotel I think are something that made it difficult for us to do what we do best,” Ruta says.