Two of DC’s top dining rooms are back in business after closing for dine-in service at the beginning of the pandemic. Chef Ryan Ratino’s modernist 14th Street restaurant, Bresca, reopened yesterday after a seven month, takeout-only hiatus. Meanwhile Sushi Taro just announced they’ll reopen the 34 year-old Japanese dining room on Tuesday, November 17. The Dupont institution has been closed for on-premise consumption since the start of the pandemic, and went dark entirely for two months before reopening for takeout in July.
The two dining rooms are reopening during a tenuous time, as local and national Covid rates are on the rise. Maryland, including nearby Montgomery County, just reduced indoor restaurant capacity from 50 to 25 percent. Sushi Taro chef/owner Nobu Yamazaki says he was reluctant to reopen, but didn’t see another option.
“We can’t just survive on takeout alone. The sales aren’t enough to maintain the employees,” he says. In addition to distanced tables and mask requirements, Yamazaki added specialty air filters and virus-killing UV lights to enhance guest and employee safety.
The menu of traditional Japanese cooked items, homemade noodles, and sushi and sashimi—including specialty fish flown in from Japan—will look similar to before. Yamazaki says they’re shortening the list of fresh fish, and service (including takeout) will be limited to dinner between 5 and 9 PM. Though lunchtime bentos were once popular with an office crowd, “I don’t see any lunch business coming back,” says Yamazaki.
Diners will be able to order a kaiseki tasting menu in the dining room, but the ultra-luxe omakase counter remains closed. Still, the offer isn’t off the table—Yamazaki and his team will bring the dinner-and-a-show to your home, starting at $1,600 for parties of four.
Bresca isn’t holding back on the splurges either. During the pandemic, Ratino transformed the moss-walled space into a takeout hub while debuting his long-awaited chef’s tasting counter, Jont, in July. Guests at Bresca 2.0 can go a la carte with whimsical dishes such as foie gras “pastrami” or Kaluga caviar service with pheasant jelly and fixings. There’s also a $75 prix-fixe, and a European-style Sunday luncheon ($65 per person) complete with nibbles, caviar, Champagne, tea sandwiches, suckling pig, and dessert displays. Diners can try and snag one of the four duck “presses” available per night, or go for a new option: lobster a la press.
If your heart is set on outdoor dining, the restaurant also built cozy “winter lodges” for two on the sidewalk.