Just shy of two months after opening, Moon Rabbit from chef Kevin Tien is going into hibernation. The modern French-Vietnamese restaurant at the Wharf’s Intercontinental Hotel is joining a growing number of businesses that are temporarily closing as temperatures drop, Covid numbers rise, and DC shuts down indoor dining until at least January 15.
“It was a tough decision. I don’t think anyone expected to open a restaurant for 45 days and then close down,” says Tien, who hopes to reopen the dining room on January 15, or whenever Mayor Muriel Bowser permits. “You feel like you’re getting into a rhythm and groove, and then out of your control, a brick wall comes up. Every business is hitting a brick wall right now.”
Tien debuted Moon Rabbit in late October in the former Kith + Kin space—a cheffy, finer dining ode to his Vietnamese heritage. It was open for indoor and outdoor dining only—no takeout—but Tien says that will change. He’s working with the hotel to activate a to-go menu for the New Year as well as some potential pop-up attractions, like possibly a Vietnamese bakery and cafe. For now, the restaurant has canceled all of its holiday offerings and reservations, and plans to instead make meals that will be donated to Feed the Fridge, a nonprofit that places refrigerators in neighborhoods and pays local restaurants to fill them.
It’s been a tough few months for Tien, who split ways with his business partners at Capitol Hill hotspot Emilie’s in June. This week, he had to hit pause at his Ballston hot chicken sandwich shop Hot Lola’s after a team member tested positive for Covid. But his outlook is hopeful.
“My goal and the hotel’s goal is to keep people employed. I have a lot of fun ideas,” says Tien. “Our reservations are already open for that day [January 15]. I pray that everyone takes the advice of the wonderful Dr. Fauci and limits their holiday gatherings.”