Join us today at 11 AM to chat with Ann Limpert. Have questions about DC’s burgeoning Italian scene? The war on plastic straws? Or maybe you just need a dinner recommendation. Leave a question below, and Ann will get to as many as she can this morning.
Ann: Greetings, chatters! I’m writing you from Lake Erie in Ohio, where I’ve been living on fried-perch sandwiches and grilled steak all week. It ain’t bad. But lots happening in DC these days.
As Don Rockwell reported yesterday, there’s been a massive shakeup at Mirabelle—founding chef Frank Ruta and pastry chef Aggie Chin are out, and their last day in the kitchen is tomorrow. The ultra-luxe French restaurant near the White House, which will remain owned by restaurateur Hakan Ilhan (L’Hommage; Alba Trattoria), is going into the hands of former wine director/general manager Jennifer Knowles, who will resume those duties (she’d left last year to open Mike Isabella’s Requin). She’s bringing back bartender Zach Faden to work on cocktails and pastry cook* Zoe Ezrailson to handle desserts.
Keith Bombaugh, a protege of Boston’s Barbara Lynch who went on to become a sous chef at Chicago’s Alinea, is leading the kitchen. His opening menus, which include three ($75) to 12 course ($195) options in addition to a la carte, show plenty of affection for French, mid-Atlantic, and New England flavors. No more $26 ham sandwich on the lunch menu, but you will find Maryland crab toast, a croque madame popover, and a Cape Cod duo of clams with fried bellies and steamers. The opulent dessert and Armagnac/spirits carts are there to stay. Knowles wants to make the restaurant more user-friendly—a place to duck into for a quick lunch, a shellfish tower, or some bar snacks, in addition to elaborate dinners.
Mirabelle opened to plenty of acclaim—I awarded it three stars in May of 2017 and called Ruta’s poached foie gras the single best bite of food I had had so far that year. But the restaurant suffered consistancy issues (my last meal there earlier this year was erratic, very expensive, and incredibly lengthy at over three hours for three courses).
Ruta and Chin’s departures were “purely a business decision,” says Knowles. “There was an inability to consistantly meet food and labor costs.” The often half-empty dining room didn’t help.
The restaurant will shut down this weekend and reopen for lunch and dinner August 7th. No word yet on what’s next for veteran chef Ruta, whose classical French and Mediterranean-accented cooking has many loyal fans, or pastry talent Chin, whose Mirabelle desserts were featured on our most recent Best of Washington list.
Anyway, onto your questions! Ask them below; the chat transcript shows up underneath the question form.
*Correction: The original intro stated that Ezrailson was once Chin’s #2 at Mirabelle; she had been a pastry cook there.