Tue 10 Feb 2009
Several of our fellow food writers have recently provided some anecdotal evidence that suggests that Washington’s dining scene hasn’t been hit by the tough economic times as hard as some had feared. If you remain unconvinced, this week should go a long way toward changing your mind.
After months of preparation, two of the most anticipated restaurant openings in Northern Virginia will take place almost back-to-back. This evening, Michael Landrum opens Ray’s the Steaks in its new location at 2300 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington (paving the way for a new seafood-themed restaurant called Ray’s The Catch later this month in its current location). On Thursday night, Robert Weidmaier opens his third establishment on King Street in Alexandria with Brabo (a laid-back ‘tasting room’ and a butcher shop will follow as part of Weidmaier’s relationship with Kimpton’s new Lorien Hotel and Spa).
If we’re living in a recession, maybe someone should mention it to these guys.
I stopped into Brabo this weekend to take a quick look around and snap some pictures. And although I didn’t have the same opportunity to do so at Ray’s, I did manage to get a few shots through the windows.
Like most of you, we’ve been looking forward to these two for a while now. After the jump, shots from the interiors of Brabo and Ray’s, along with information on hours and more details.
The first opening on the agenda is Ray’s the Steaks - a move that will expand Landrum’s original venture to almost 150 seats. Unlike the somewhat cramped quarters at the current location, the new space is positively airy. In Warren Rojas’s weekly online chat last week, Landrum announced that a 45-seat section of the restaurant will be made available for reservations, while the majority of the seating (90-seats) will follow the current first-come, first-served policy at Ray’s.
Although we didn’t have a chance to sit down with Landrum or tour the space, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to check out the new decor through the large, airy windows at the new location (sorry for the smudges, guys). What you can see is pretty impressive. Dark wood, white tables and chairs, and polished metal ceiling fans give a much more refined atmosphere while maintaining the no-frills feel of the original.
The menu? You’ll be happy to hear that Landrum and his team will continue to offer high-quality steaks at super-competitive prices in addition to some favorites from the menu at Ray’s the Classics in Silver Spring. In fact, the prices on some of the signature menu items (New York Strip and Filet Mignon) are coming down and there are plans to introduce a bistro menu on weeknights that will offer soup or salad, hanger steak or giant scallops, and dessert for $23.95.
And the current space won’t stay fallow for long. Landrum intends to immediately turn it into a new concept: Ray’s the Catch. To hear him talk about it, “The prices at Ray’s: The Catch will be so low that they will completely subvert the very concept of restaurant pricing in the DC market.” Considering what he’s done for steaks and burgers, we’re pretty sure this is no idle boast. The fact that his next venture will bring him into our neighborhood has us even more excited…more on that as it develops.
After downing a steak at Ray’s on Tuesday night, take a day to digest and then set your sights on Old Town. Brabo, named for a classic hero from Belgian legend, will continue Robert Weidmaier’s singular efforts to introduce Washingtonians to Belgian fare beyond moules frites. The menu will be seasonally influenced, but it will draw its inspirations from Weidmaier’s classic training. Think veal shanks, lamb tenderloin and upscale roasted chicken.
I met the General Manager this weekend and looked around the almost-complete dining room. What impressed me most was the way that Brabo is able to balance the intimate and the luxe. The space felt comfortable, but not confining.
To confuse things a bit, Weidmaier will also open a ‘Brabo Tasting Room’ in a separate building (both are accessible through the Hotel Lorien). Why is this confusing? Oh, just because most Old Town diners associate tasting rooms with high-end dining experiences – Restaurant Eve may have something to do with that. In this case, though, the Tasting Room is actually going to be the more scaled-back concept: it will feature a wood-fired brick oven and a selection of grilled entrees. The casual setting will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
With two big openings happening in such close proximity, this is going to be a really big week for the Northern Virginia dining scene. Make your reservations now (or plan on showing up early to stake a table at Ray’s)!