Little Blackbird, Ashok Bajaj’s Playful Wine Bar in Cleveland Park, Opens Thursday

Here, you can pair your sauternes with a Twinkie.

Little Blackbird is the newest identity for the space formerly known as Bardeo and Bindaas. Photograph by Greg Powers.

Little Blackbird, 3309 Connecticut Ave., NW.

Open Sunday through Tuesday from 5 to 9:30 PM, and Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 10:30 PM.

Cleveland Park is having a renaissance. At least that’s what restaurateur Ashok Bajaj is hoping. Today, he’ll debut Little Blackbird, a wine bar in the Connecticut Avenue space that once housed his Indian small plates dining room Bindaas (and before that, another wine bar, Bardeo). Bajaj—also behind restaurants like Rasika and the Bombay Club—is betting that the cozy newcomer will benefit from the neighborhood’s forthcoming outdoor “promenade”—a seating and pedestrian area in a former service lane that is slated to open next year. And that it won’t join the long list of restaurants that have come and gone in Cleveland Park over the last decade (remember Dino, Nam Viet, Ripple, Sorriso, Lavandou, and Palena?).  

Little Blackbird, whose name refers to the Merlot grape—which in turn was named after a blackbird—will be centered around a global wine program from beverage director Ron Balter. Executive chef Ryan Moore, who also heads the kitchen at neighboring Israeli restaurant Sababa, will take a similar all-over-the-world approach when it comes to the menu.

“I wanted to do clean, crisp food that doesn’t fight the grapes,” says Moore, who has worked with  José Andrés, Ris Lacoste, and Yannick Cam. “I don’t have to pull from any specific region, just things that will fit well with wine.”

Burrata with roasted apples at Little Blackbird. Photo by Greg Powers.

Moore’s menu wends its way through the Mediterranean, incorporating dishes like hearth-roasted branzino, lamb loin with fava bean puree and cumin yogurt, and burrata with roasted apple and prosciutto. There’s a French-inspired tarte flambée with onions and gruyere— and garlic labne replacing the traditional fromage blanc. Moore’s house-made-sausage-of-the-day program will kick off with crépinettes, a traditional French pork sausage with a distinctive casing made from caul fat. 

Roasted branzino with lemon and olives. Photo by Greg Powers.

Moore is excited about the food in its own right, but Little Blackbird is ultimately a wine bar, and booze makes its way onto the menu in some unexpected ways. A butterscotch pudding is spiked with smoky Laphroaig 10-year single malt scotch. Then there’s the “playful pairings” menu section, where, for $15, you can pair a glass of sauvignon blanc with Cheetos. You can also try a nice sauternes with a Twinkie, a cream sherry with Oreos, and a banyuls rouge with Junior Mints. Moore swears the pairings are delicious, and says they’re actually carefully chosen for maximum sensory effect. 

“We’re a very nice fancy place, but you’re here to have fun at the end of the day,” Moore says. “We’re not stuffy.”

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor