A Kinship of Bon Goût

 

Kinship, or “the feeling of being connected to other people,” is more than just the name of the restaurant recently opened by Chef Eric Ziebold and his wife and partner Célia Laurent in the Shaw district of Washington D.C. It appears to be what drives the couple’s finely tuned style of hospitality. Guests are greeted warmly at the door and made to feel comfortable, whether they are lingering with their drinks around the fireplace in the lounge, at the bar (where dinner service is available), or eating dinner in the stylish, lively dining room.

While Ziebold does his magic in the kitchen, Laurent is a constant presence among the wait staff, expertly commandeering the service and occasionally stopping to chat with a guest, all the while pitching in to serve and clear as needed. The sommelier moves from the dining to bar areas, making sure that guests have what they need without being formally summoned.  The situation is, in the words of Olivia Pope, “handled.”

Ironically, if it wasn’t for the valet stand in front of the restaurant (a convenience that is not lost on a woman like me, who tends to wear shoes that are definitely not “made for walking”), you might miss it.  The signage, like everything about the place, is discreet, minimal, and sleek. This should come as as no surprise, given Ziebold’s pedigree. His former gig was the highly acclaimed CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, DC, and before that, he was at the iconic French Laundry in Napa Valley. Excess is simply not in his vocabulary, unless it refers to the level of skill with which he delivers a dining experience.

To that end, the couple enlisted the help of Washington based designer Darryl Carter to convert the space in the storied brick building into a modern, welcoming environment that perfectly conveys the Ziebold’s vision of “a more relaxed version of CityZen.”  The decor is a restrained yet eclectic combination of design elements.

A neutral, mostly white and grey palette is peppered with subtle yet striking details such as exposed (but painted of course) beams and bricks and the occasional fuchsia backlighting. The elegance of the furniture and antiques in the dining area and the classical moulding in the bar area are juxtaposed with the casual sophistication of the lounge which features, among other things, a fireplace with stacks of actual firewood, a cow hide rug, and furniture made out of highly polished raw wood and stone.

The menu, which can best be described as modern American cuisine with European influences, is broken down in a manner that reflects the Chef’s culinary inspirations. Dishes are classified as “celebrations” of either Craft (specific cooking techniques), History (reinterpretations of traditional dishes), Ingredients (dishes highlighting a particular product), Indulgence (dishes featuring high end ingredients such as caviar), or For the Table (either a whole roasted fish or chicken, for example, to be shared).

Sounds a bit intimidating, but don’t worry – the friendly wait staff is there and more than willing to break it down in simple terms of “what goes with what.”  Same goes for the extensive wine list.

Tips:  Every dish you order will be delicious in a completely unexpected way, which rather than sating your appetite will leave you wanting more.  Order accordingly.  We thought we would share a couple of starter-size dishes and a “For The Table” course, but ended up ordering numerous starters (warm lentil salad, agnolotti, pineapple quince salad and Maine lobster French toast, to be precise) before sharing the fish. Sorry, not sorry – the food is just that good! As a result, we had no room for dessert, which I plan to start with the next time we visit.  A consolation did come in the form of the most delicious peanut brittle, which is served as a complement when you order coffee or tea at the end of your meal.

*Kinship – 1015 7th St. NW, WDC 20001 – (202) 737-7700

Be on the lookout for a post on Ziebold and Laurent’s next restaurant, Métier, which is set to open later this month.

 

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