Food

Ashok Bajaj’s Modern Mediterranean Restaurant Olivia Opens Tonight

The new Penn Quarter restaurant replaces Nopa
The modern Mediterranean Olivia opens in Penn Quarter, from Rasika restaurateur Ashok Bajaj. Photography by Evy Mages

The best seat in a restaurant isn’t always obvious, but we’ve found it at Olivia: a custom booth with Hermès palm print in the center of the modern Mediterranean eatery, which opens in Penn Quarter tonight.

Olivia modern Mediterranean restaurant open Penn Quarter DC
The new design includes lots of greenery and fun touches like this Hermès booth.

Rasika restaurateur Ashok Bajaj brightened up the 90-seat main dining room, lounge, and three private rooms that were all formerly home to his American brasserie concept, Nopa. Designer Martin Vahtra channeled the coastal Mediterranean for the space, filling the white-washed brick walls with artists from the region and adding a garden’s worth of greenery (live and tasteful faux). The bar is particularly lush with a ceiling of moss and vines and garden chairs for lounging with a gin-grapefruit-basil cocktail.

Olivia modern Mediterranean restaurant open Penn Quarter DC
The 60-seat dining room is joined by a lounge and three private dining rooms.
A private room with a Christian Lacroix mural.

Olivia’s creation was designed to complement Sababa in Cleveland Park, where the kitchen draws from Israel and the eastern Mediterranean. Here, chef Matt Kuhn (who formerly helmed Nopa) turns west to Greece, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, and beyond. Updated classics on the lunch and dinner menu include dill tzatziki topped with trout roe; warm burrata under zhug (an herbaceous hot sauce) and garlicky breadcrumbs; whole roasted branzino with pickled fennel and bouillabaisse broth; and chickpea ravioli with mushroom bolognese. Nearly half the menu is vegetarian (Bajaj eats mostly meatless), and the format is flexible—groups can share small/large plates or treat them as appetizers and entrees.

Olivia modern Mediterranean open Penn Quarter DC new restaurant.
Galician octopus carpaccio (left) and warm burrata with herbaceous hot sauce and breadcrumbs.
The space will be open for lunch, brunch, and dinner.

The restaurant will initially open for dinner with lunch to follow next week and then Sunday brunch.

Olivia. 800 F St., NW; 202-347-4667 . Open nightly for dinner; weekday lunch; and Sunday brunch (11 AM to 3 PM).

Cocktails use Mediterranean spirits, fresh fruit juices, and herbs.

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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.