Gravitas chef Matt Baker is, admittedly, not good at sitting idle. Over the course of the pandemic, he prepared takeout meals and elaborate holiday packages from his Michelin-starred Ivy City tasting room until the fancy prix-fixe dinners could resume, and hosted virtual and then in-person cooking classes. In addition to welcoming a daughter, he opened Baker’s Daughter, an all-day cafe and market across from Gravitas, and planned another branch, opening in Chinatown this summer. And now that the world is slowly returning to normal? Well, it’s time to really ramp things up.
Baker is taking over the two main dining spaces in Downtown DC’s hip Eaton hotel, a boutique property that opened in summer 2018 with Tim Ma as the chef-headliner. Ma is currently involved in other projects like Chinese-American restaurant Lucky Danger, which is opening a second location in Arlington soon, and new nonprofit Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate. The last of the development partners involved in Eaton, Ma says the departure is a “natural progression.” Lobby restaurant American Son and Kintsugi coffee shop will close in the coming weeks to make way for two Baker concepts: Michele’s, a chic French-American restaurant, and a third location of Baker’s Daughter. The latter will open in late summer, while the redesigned full-service restaurant is slated for October.
Michele’s is named after Baker’s mother, who passed away five years ago. A native New Orleanian, she raised Baker in Houston, but the family frequently returned to her hometown.
“Both cities were so impactful in terms of cuisine and culture,” says Baker. “In New Orleans, everything you eat is a revelation. And Houston is such a diverse city—we’d have Indian on Wednesday, my dad would grill lamb from a halal market near our house on Thursday, then Creole po’ boys on Friday, and dim sum out for Sunday lunch. I loved that.”
Baker plans to capture the eclecticism of both cities at Michele’s, all against the backdrop of his classic French culinary training. The centerpiece of the restaurant, designed by Natalie Park, is a twelve-seat raw bar where Baker will serve a ticketed omakase-style tasting with 18-odd bites—somewhat similar to the chef’s counter at Gravitas, but with a seafood-centric approach that’ll include raw and char-grilled oysters, caviar, and more.
Menus in the dining room and 30-seat patio—outfitted with distinct, private seating areas similar to the ones at Le Diplomate—will be a la carte. The raw bar will come into play again with seafood towers, caviar service, and dishes like oysters with Lagavulin 16, seaweed mignonette, and cucumber snow. All plates will be designed to share. Smaller items might include luxe riffs on French classics, like a Gruyère omelette with fine herbs and morel mushrooms, or uni custard with Maryland crab and grapefruit sabayon. There’ll also be large-format dishes in every category, such as a Vietnamese-style whole fried fish or roast chicken with chicken fat hollandaise. Guests can match the food with nouveau-style wines and modern takes on French cocktails from Gravitas beverage manager Judy Elahi.
For more casual dining and takeout, the third location of Baker’s Daughter will feature a similar lineup to the other two: coffees and homemade pastries, breakfast tacos and biscuits, bright salads, sandwiches, and beer, wine, and cocktails to-go. In addition to the lobby space, there will be a walk-up window to order food and drinks on 12th Street, Northwest.
While Ma was initially involved in food and beverage for lobby bar Allegory and the rooftop bar, Wild Days, Baker says the only additional services he plans to provide are a modified room service.
Michele’s and Baker’s Daughter at the Eaton DC. 1201 K St., NW