Prolific restaurateur Ashok Bajaj is pulling the plug on elegant dining spot 701 Restaurant after nearly three decades of serving Penn Quarter’s expense account-set.
Bajaj worked with the building’s new ownership over the past nine months to reach an agreement to stay at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, but “unfortunately, they were not able to address key concerns,” he said in a statement provided to Eater. Negotiations fell apart in the past week, and The Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema cited “a rent spike” as the reasoning behind the shutter.
The second-oldest establishment in Bajaj’s D.C. empire, 701 was known for its contemporary American cuisine, pre-theatre menus, and live jazz. The restaurant is scheduled to serve its last meal on New Year’s Eve.
“There is sadness and grieving that comes with having to close something I created which gave me great joy and which I did not want to close,” adds Bajaj.
“I, for one, will miss the affordable supper club, a Penn Quarter pioneer,” wrote Sietsema in a tweet breaking the news on Thursday, December 27.
Most of the staff will be transferred to Knightsbridge Restaurant Group’s existing pool of eateries, which includes Bajaj’s first D.C. venue, The Bombay Club, as well as Bibiana, Rasika, Bindaas, and Sababa. NoPa Kitchen + Bar will become a new Mediterranean restaurant, Olivia, in January. Bajaj also has plans for the former Restaurant Nora building he recently acquired in Dupont.
701’s three-course finale, with dry-aged ribeye and Chesapeake oyster options, will feature a four-piece live jazz band and champagne toast at midnight ($95 per person, $45 more for wine pairings).
It’s not the only D.C. fixture that’s been forced to fold because of rent issues. Acadiana, Passion Food Hospitality group’s tribute to Louisiana fish houses, will close after 13 years on New Year’s Eve as well. Its owners hope to revive the restaurant elsewhere.
That could also be the case for 701: “As they say, when one door closes another opens—so please stay tuned for what’s next,” says Bajaj.