At Cleveland Park's new restaurant Medium Rare, minimalism is the name of the game. The new venture from Mark Bucher, Brian Zipin and Michel Richard opens today with a modest menu, warm space and a desire to become both a neighborhood spot and a destination. "We think there was a need for a restaurant like this here," Zipin says, adding that the Cleveland Park neighborhood has been particularly welcoming. And it's easy to see why when Medium Rare boasts a large outdoor patio with seating for 30 — a number expected to bump up to 50 when another permit goes through.
Medium Rare offers one simple set menu: artisan bread, a mixed green salad and prime sirloin cap steak served with fries and secret sauce. All for just $19.50. Desserts seem pricy by comparison at $8 each, but feature all the classics like New York cheesecake, a hot fudge sundae, Grandma's apple pie, carrot cake and a double chocolate fudge layer cake. Zipin admits that the team has concerns about the limited menu, but warns to "never underestimate people's appetite for steak." Still, Medium Rare does offer a nod to vegetarians with a grilled, sliced portobello marinated in a red bell pepper sauce (and served with fries, of course).
The wine and beer list matches the minimalist menu offering five reds, six whites and four draft beers. The wines were selected according to what pairs well with the menu as well as for flavor profiles that most diners tend to like. Beers are listed as strong (Delirium Tremens), medium (Harpoon IPA), light (Stoudt's Pilsener) and low calorie (Miller Lite). Rather than providing a menu the size of a book, the idea here is to limit selections and free diners up to chat a little more.
And the atmosphere of the restaurant helps. The design by Adamstein and Demetriou revamps an old space that hadn't been well tended. Zipin recalls feeling like the team hit gold when they stripped the place and discovered the brick walls that are now exposed along with blond wood paneling. Table settings are simple (with a nice touch of branded butcher paper tablecloths) and ceilings are low, giving it a cozier neighborhood bistro feel.
But make no mistake: Medium Rare does hope to become a destination. Zipin points to Michel Richard's Central and other restaurants downtown as examples for having totally different clientele during the day as they did as night. And with the Metro directly across the street, that goal seems plenty attainable.