405 8th Street, NW
From a press release:
On the heels of the much-anticipated opening of his breakout project Table, Chef Frederik de Pue has released details on a second restaurant project, Azur. The full-service, upscale casual European style seafood spot is slated to open on New Year’s Eve in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC.
The restaurant is located at 405 8thStreet NW in the space previously occupied by Think Food Group’s Café Atlántico by Chef José Andrés. In late September 2012 Chef De Pue and partners purchased the building, driven by great timing of the sale and the ideal downtown location to open his ‘dream’ restaurant project.
“It may seem a bit ambitious to open two restaurants back to back, but I’ve had Table in the works for quite a while. When the opportunity to purchase the Atlántico building came up, we couldn’t let it go,” explained Chef de Pue. “With Azur I can showcase a true seafood restaurant, and what I’ve gained in working at the Michelin-rated Sea Grill restaurant in Brussels and in other amazing kitchens in Europe. I’m excited to bring all my experience to this restaurant and look forward to trying out some new ideas in the kitchen.”
Inspired by a culinary career that began in hisnative Belgium, Chef de Pue has envisioned the menu at Azur to draw on European classics with contemporary flavors and translations. The menu focuses on high quality products from sustainable seafood purveyors, with mainstream varieties of fish and shellfish including lobster, tiger prawns, crab, oysters and mussels. Some harder to find and not-often seen seafood and other dishes will be offered as well.
Azur will offer traditional classics such as Bouillabaisse and Moules-frites, appetizer, salad and entrée selections, as well as shellfish dishes with modern twists, including Chef de Pue’s take on Pesce al Sale. The menu will also include a smaller selection of meat dishes and vegetarian offerings. A full raw bar located on the third level will offer fresh oysters and shellfish and a separate, smaller bar menu will be available in the bar/lounge. Pastry Chef Kieu-Linh Nguyen, formerly of the Park Hyatt in San Diego, CA, will head the pastry program at Azur with a focus on seasonal desserts.
The restaurant will serve dinner in the initial opening phase, with lunch and weekend brunch added in early spring 2013.
Designed to pair well with the seafood-centric menu, the bar program at Azur will focus on wine and craft beer, with a cocktail menu designed by one of DC’s premier mixologists, Jon Arroyo. A large selection of white wines and delicately flavored cocktails will change seasonally and complement the food menu, with accents of lavender, citrus, and florals. The wine focus will be on white varietals, and will also include burgundies, sparkling, and sweet reds available by the glass, half and full bottles. A rotating selection of craft and organic beers will be ondraught at the bar.
Azur is serving tea exclusively from Teaism, its Penn Quarter neighbor and regional tea purveyor, and all water will be filtered in house with Natura Water technology, eliminating waste associated with bottled water.
The notable location was originally a power substation for the city and changed hands many times before becoming a jewel in the restaurant collection of noted chef José Andrés, with Café Atlántico, in 1995. The restaurant shuttered in mid-2011, to re-emerge as America Eats Tavern until July of this year when the building was put up for sale.
The building interior remains open and airy, with much of the previous architecture intact. Virginia-based designer Natascha Folens of NF Interior managed design and décor for the soaring 6,000 squarefoot space. The feeling is contemporary, with hues of the ocean and sea accented by handcrafted furniture pieces, simple yet interesting lighting and chandeliers, finishes, textures and details to enhance the natural appearance of the various levels and environmental zones. Each space offers comfort and provides a clean and complementary backdrop to the food, the oyster bar and energy of the overall restaurant experience.
Up to 135 seats will be available for dining at any given time, with a full oyster bar with seating for six occupying the space where the former Minibar was located, on the uppermost level of the building. On the third level, the more formal dining room accommodates approximately 65 seats, with some group seating for up to 22 guests. The main level offers a large bar and lounge style seating. (renderings below). Azur will also offer private dining accommodations for large groups with advance reservation on the fourth level.
Images by Natascha Folens, NF Interiors: