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Expect Traditional French Cooking, With Some Flourishes, at Mirabelle

Chefs Frank Ruta and Aggie Chin dig the classics

The dining room at Mirabelle [R. Lopez]

When the doors open today at 11:30 a.m. for lunch, Mirabelle chefs Frank Ruta and Aggie Chin want guests to know that the food they’ll be sending out has been on their minds for a very long time.

“A lot of it is what we would want to eat,” Ruta told Eater of dishes he said harken back to the classically French cuisine he prepared during his days at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “At the White House, that’s all it was,” he said of the “very traditional” cooking style required at the time.

Ruta said he consider his current repertoire “perhaps a touch more contemporary” than that which his younger self turned out, a natural reflection of his personal growth as a chef. Revisiting the past doesn’t interest him so much as improving upon it. He said he created a new gourmet burger — this one with caramelized onions and melted gruyere — not because it drew raves at since-shuttered Palena, or helped lure curiosity seekers to the Grill Room, but because it is something that lends itself to reinvention. Same for an oven roasted chicken dish he’s reworked with morels and crayfish (“It’s the perfect time of year for that,” Ruta suggested.)

He’s excited for patrons to work their way through a sandwich line-up bolstered by house-made breads (he noted that the baguettes are made with a touch of buckwheat flour) and expects a seafood-packed bouillabaisse to be a crowd pleaser. “You get that puff of steam when they open the pot,” he said.

Chin, meanwhile, remains a fan of the confit tuna Nicoise. “It really pops,” she said, billing the salad as “elegant” and “elevated.”

Oddly enough, both chefs are looking forward to starting even earlier in the day.

“Aggie and I always felt like we missed the Palena coffee shop after that closed,” Ruta told Eater. “We’d like to be able to explore that a little further.” Adding dinner service is the first priority, followed by opening up the patio. But once they do turn their attention to breakfast, both Ruta and Chin mapped out plans to whip up fresh baked pastries, hearty sandwiches and gourmet spread (plum jelly was mentioned).

Ruta has also carved out room for a bar menu — “Little plate type things” is how he described the in-the-works offerings — but warned folks that not everything would be available. “We’re not going to do the burger at night. It would just cause a lot of problems,” he told Eater.

On the beverage side, service and wine director Jennifer Knowles said she plans to launch with just under a dozen beers (think: saison, framboise, and double sour pale ale), including four draft beers — three of which will be local — plus DC Brau in cans. The wine list will feature 350-some bottles — ranging from $24 a bottle to a selection priced at $4,500 — including 30 by-the-glass pours.

In addition to mixing classic cocktails, Knowles said the bar will also feature absinthe service, including an absinthe fountain, Toulouse-Lautrec spoons and hand-blown glasses. But she stressed that no one element is more important than consistency.

“This is not about our bar,” she said. “This is about our guests.”

Status: Opening for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Breakfast, dinner and brunch are expected to follow.

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