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A Look Inside Mirabelle, Bringing French Taste to Downtown

The Gallic-American restaurant is expected to debut this month

With ornate marble, mirrors, and modern-American-meets-classic-French cuisine, Mirabelle is almost ready to open right near the White House.

The new see-and-be-seen power spot, from restaurateur Hakan Ilhan and chefs Frank Ruta and Aggie Chin, will be one of the first big spring openings of the year. The 147-seat restaurant includes room for nearly two dozen at the bar, and 45 others in a private dining area. Once the weather warms up, 66 additional seats should open up on the outdoor patio.

Ruta’s former workplace isn’t far; he was a White House chef, most recently under the George H. W. Bush administration. The wood paneled-and-white tablecloth setup isn’t anything new for the area, but Mirabelle’s got sexy details one might expect to find in Paris (think red reptilian upholstery and lots of gold accents).

The 4,300-square-foot space at 900 16th St. NW, designed by Norris Design Studio, wants to celebrate the glamour of the mid-twentieth century. The entry vestibule features stitched and tufted leather walls, framed with solid walnut. From a ceiling oculus hangs a custom brass and wood chandelier to light the way over a Carrara marble floor installation. The marble also adorns the 22-seat bar, which is encased in mirrored paneling. A 45-seat private dining room is a safe place for a hush-hush political gathering (these walls won’t talk).

Palena fans will be pleased to know that Ruta has not lost his appetite for burger craft; his latest creation features caramelized onions and melted Gruyere in an homage to French onion soup. He’s doctored his grandmother’s gnocchi recipe — lightened up with red quinoa, but still bathed in butter (“We are a French restaurant, after all,” Ruta said) — developed sandwiches for the lunch crowd, and carved out a separate bar menu for those looking for just a little something. A custom pastry trolley bearing Chin’s gourmet sweets will circle the dining room during the day — at night it transforms into a cheese cart — to help make lingering a little longer virtually irresistible.

Service and wine director Jennifer Knowles, an alum of the Inn at Little Washington, and sommelier Jaren Keller (Range, Alinea) have crafted an opening wine list featuring 300-some bottles and 30 wines by the glass (starting at $9 for rose and climbing to $36 for a Bordeaux). Knowles said the beer program is expected to feature local drafts as well as imports. And the beverage team is very excited about unveiling the absinthe fountain.

President Donald Trump’s newly adopted neighborhood will continue to up its fine dining profile with the arrival of Wisconsin-based Rare Steakhouse, scheduled to open across the street from Mirabelle later this year.

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