Nina May owners Danilo Simic and chef Colin McClimans are ready to open a second restaurant: Opal, a coastal American spinoff of their popular, locavore Shaw eatery. The 80-seat spot is set to open in Chevy Chase DC space that’s turned over frequently in recent years (La Siesta, Capital Crab), but was also home to long-gone neighborhood fixture, Arucola. The team is aiming for a late September debut.
McClimans, who’s from the area and has family in the neighborhood, says he’s long been eyeing the building, which also includes a second-floor private event space with 30 seats and its own kitchen. He and Simic are planning to open a larger, all-day cafe and market, Elena James, in nearby Chevy Chase, Maryland in fall of next year. Opal is their stepping stone into the area.
“When we looked at the neighborhood and offerings that are here, we think people are leaning towards lighter fare, more bright flavors—something simple and true to itself,” says McClimans.
Seafood will be the focus, with an emphasis on seasonal finds like Atlantic halibut or Florida red snapper. Diners can expect a variety of preparations from the wood-fired, open kitchen—snacks, share plates, mains, sides, and homemade breads and pastries. There will also be plenty of vegetable-focused plates, and meat preparations that take inspiration from the coast. Similar to the generous “chef’s choice” option at Nina May—a nightly, family-style spread for $55 per person—Opal will have “our version of a tasting menu that’s not a tasting menu,” says McClimans.
An intimate bar, which stands at the center of the dining room, will offer the full menu alongside Simic’s cocktail creations and an extensive beer and wine list. Simic plans to bring elements of Nina May’s beverage program uptown—fresh juices, fancy ice—and will riff on classics like a French 75 or Sazerac.
Opal is a new venture in more than one way—it’s the only project that Simic and McClimans haven’t named after their young kids so far. While there won’t be a children’s menu, per se, the duo plan to welcome the neighborhood’s many families with child-friendly options (chicken, pasta, veggies etc.). Hours are also meant to cater to neighbors, including weekday lunch, dinner six nights, and of course, weekend brunch.
Opal. 5534 Connecticut Ave., Northwest.