It’s been five years since chef Frederik De Pue closed the last of his DC restaurants, which at one point included the intimate Table in Shaw and Menu MBK in Penn Quarter. So the February 15 debut of his latest modern bistro, the Henri, might seem like a homecoming. In fact, the chef never really left. While opening Flamant in Annapolis, he’s continued to live in DC and operate his longtime catering business here. And in many ways, the Henri—located a couple of blocks from the White House—is an extension of his catering. Only now he’ll be hosting clients on his own turf. While the restaurant will feature a 60-seat dining room and sizable bar area, 60 percent of the space will be devoted to private dining.
“It’s so hard to find a space for 40 people in DC if it’s not a hotel or it’s a full buyout that is so expensive,” De Pue says. “I found that there’s such a demand for those spaces.”
But first, let’s talk about the main dining room. The French-meets-Belgian menu centers around a Bonnet rotisserie in the open kitchen, from which De Pue plans to roast honey-spiced pork shoulders, herb-crusted lamb T-bones, and venison sausages. Vegetables also get the rotisserie treatment, such as cauliflower shredded into couscous and served with grilled cranberries, sumac yogurt, pistachio butter, and parsnip chips.
Other starters range from a cappuccino-style mushroom soup to lemon vodka-flambéed prawns. Among the non-rotisserie entrees: a grilled New York strip with Belgian-style fries; veal cheeks carbonnade (a Belgian stew with lambic beer); and coq-au-vin-inspired root vegetables braised in red wine. (Lunch and breakfast are also in the works.)
The bar, with room for more than 50, focuses on classic cocktails and a small selection of more casual snacks like Maryland crab rolls and parmesan “churros.” During happy hour (daily from 4 to 6 PM), find $9 glasses of wine, $10 cocktails, and $5 beers.
Then there are six adjustable private rooms—seating four to 80 guests—surrounding a separate kitchen and butcher block with access to a private bar. De Pue says all the rooms have their own full A/V systems as well as sound-absorbing insulation to make everything as private as possible. The sleek spaces will also come with their own prix-fixe menus: three courses for $85 or $105 per person, four courses for $135, or a personalized option.
De Pue aims to host everything from rehearsal dinners and cocktail parties to business meetings and fundraisers. And though he wants to attract the Washington power crowd, he also wanted a name that was decidedly un-Washington. Henri was De Pue’s grandfather, who passed away during the three-plus years the restaurant was in the works.
“The location where we are, we all know this is the center of lobbying and lawyers and all the above,” De Pue says. “The last thing I wanted to have was a name that referenced to any of that.”
The Henri. 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. 202-989-5881.