777 I Street, NW
On Friday I noted it looked like Del Campo was close to opening in the former PS7s space in Chinatown. April 22nd is the day. From a press release:
On April 22, Chef Victor Albisu will open Del Campo, his first full-service restaurant, in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (777 I St. NW). Simultaneously rustic and refined, the open, airy dining room calls to mind the rural vineyards and ranches of South America. Those influences loom large on the menu as well, informing the extensive selection of grilled meats as well as traditional Latin American street foods and a robust list of South American wine varietals. In addition to the 129-seat dining room and 36-seat bar, there is a nine-seat Asado Bar located at the heart of the restaurant. Overlooking the open kitchen, this unique dining area gives guests a gallery-style view of the active grill.
“I’ve been dreaming of opening this restaurant my whole life,” says Chef/Owner Victor Albisu. “This is the food I first learned to appreciate from my grandfather, a Cuban baker. This is the food I first learned to cook from the Argentinean and Uruguayan butchers that worked in my mother’s market. It really is the dream come true to be able to take that food, elevate it, and share it with the rest of the city.”
Del Campo’s meat-centric menu is a perfect showcase of Albisu’s skill with the grill. The master asador is an expert in the areas of grilling, charring and smoking. But it’s not just meat that benefits from this talent – everything from vegetables to cheeses, breads and salads is given a touch of char. The restaurant’s impressive menu of steaks and slow roasted meats are served with vibrant and flavorful herbed sauces like chimichurri and salsa verdes.
Albisu pays homage to his Peruvian heritage with a raw bar of ceviches, tiraditos and crudos, as well as anticuchos and chicharones, grilled, skewered and fried meats. Even the bread program reflects the restaurant’s roots, featuring warm cast iron country bread served with smoked olive oil. The bar menu, which will continue to be served one hour after the kitchen closes, offers South American sandwiches and street food, including empanadas, anticuchos, albondigas, chicharones, and a chivito sandwich.
The Asado Bar is a showcase for the true art of the South American grill. Reservations are required for the nine-seat space overlooking the restaurant’s grills, where Albisu and his expert asadors work the open flames while interacting with their guests. There are three different fixed-price menus available at the bar, the Traditional, including salad, one board of meat and a choice of cheese or desert; Asado Del Campo that presents two boards of meat and includes sweet breads and other offal cuts along with both cheese and dessert; and a seasonal vegetarian option that demonstrates the flavors that heat and char bring out in everything from greens to cheese.
Like the menu, the liquid selection highlights and elevates classics. Naturally, the bar serves classic South American spirits, such as Pisco, Cachaca and Aguardiente, as well as celebrated regional favorites, like Argentinean mate tea. The real star of the beverage program is the wine list, which leans heavily South American. This focus extends to the serving vessels themselves: some selections will be decanted in traditional Argentine ceramic carafes.
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Working with Georgetown-based architecture and design firm, CORE, along with Atreus Works and Shelter Studios, Albisu has created a feeling of relaxed luxury by blending inspiration from the Argentine countryside with modern South American cities.
A warm palette of smoky and blond woods plays off the neutral concrete walls in the front dining room and bar spaces, which are visually connected by a dramatic set of vintage crystal chandeliers. An oversized antique mirror contrasts with metal and leather sling-back barstools and opens up the space. Classic South American motifs are laser cut onto the espresso-stained wood paneling on either side of the back bar.
The entire 5,000 square foot dining space has dark smoked-oak flooring. Textured-concrete walls hung with a hand-painted scroll motif sits above secluded velvet booths in a side dining area. Three mercury-glass chandeliers hang at the back of the restaurant. Small touches, like burlap and hand-woven table runners, lend a casual feel, and corduroy and velvet-upholstered benches comfortably intermingle with the worn-leather dining chairs. South American collectibles, such as a saddle draped with textiles and antique, hand-carved cedar doors, add an authentic feel to the space. The end result is a luxurious union of the rustic and refined.
About Chef Victor Albisu
With more than a decade of experience in fine dining and upscale French, American and Latin American restaurants, Chef Victor Albisu combines his culinary education with his Latin American heritage to bring a unique style of cuisine to his restaurant concepts. He also owns, Taco Bamba, a Mexican street food-inspired carryout taqueria that will open in 2013 next to Plaza Latina in Falls Church, Virginia, a Latin market owned by Albisu’s mother.
Before pursing independent ventures, Albisu served as executive chef of BLT Steak in downtown Washington, D.C. for more than four years. Albisu is a graduate of the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu School in Paris. His professional culinary journey includes stints at Michelin three-star restaurant L’Arpege in Paris, as well as contemporary Latin American restaurant, Ceiba; Belgian-influenced, French restaurant, Marcel’s; and contemporary American bistro and bar, Ardeo and Bardeo, all in Washington, D.C.
Location: 777 I St. NW, Washington, DC 20001
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 5:30-10:30pm
Bar open and bar menu available until 11:30pm
Bar open and bar menu available until 11:30pm
Team: Chef/Owner: Victor Albisu; Partner: Jeff Black; General Manager: Elizabeth Cossa
Capacity: 174 seats – 129 in the dining room, 36 at the bar, 9 at the Asado bar. Patio seating for 40. Private dining parties of up to 18, and semi-private gatherings of 28 and 46. Full restaurant receptions can accommodate 300 standing.