James Beard Foundation Award winner Frank Ruta and respected pastry chef Aggie Chin are done with glitzy French newcomer Mirabelle, which is closing this weekend and starting over with a mix of returning talent and fresh faces in August.
Restaurateur Hakan Ilhan has replaced Ruta with Keith Bombaugh, most recently chef de cuisine at Boston Harbor Hotel’s Meritage, and before that, sous chef at Grant Achatz’s fantasy dining destination Alinea. The staff changes don't stop there; wine guru Jennifer Knowles, who helped open Mirabelle and then moved to Requin before Mike Isabella became bogged down in allegations of sexual harassment, is back as general manager and wine director. Meanwhile, chef Zoe Ezrailson — most recently cooking at Mount Pleasant’s Elle, and part of Mirabelle’s opening team — is back and stepped in to replace Chin.
Washington City Paper first reported that Ruta and Chin, the highly sought after culinary duo that has thrilled local diners all over town (Palena, Bread Furst, the Grill Room), were leaving the power dining destination Ilhan unveiled last spring.
Mirabelle opened to immediate acclaim, both because of its hospitality team and stunning decor. Fans filled their social media feeds with pictures of Ruta’s latest must-have gourmet burger — an extra messy, French onion-style creation — and Chin’s fancy dessert cart. Others debated the merits of one of the priciest ham sandwiches ($24) around. While he praised it early on — ranking it number one in last year’s spring dining guide — Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema has since dialed back his enthusiasm for the recent arrival.
“Mirabelle opened with such promise, then devolved into something I didn’t recognize as Frank Ruta’s style,” he told Eater late last year.
The staff change is the latest blow to Ilhan’s family of restaurants. Earlier this year he abandoned plans to open a tapas-style restaurant in Mt. Vernon Triangle; he closed his other French restaurant, L’Hommage Bistro, last summer.
- Chefs Frank Ruta and Aggie Chin Exit Mirabelle [WCP]
- Hospitality Observers Discuss 2017’s Biggest Dining Surprise [EDC]
- Tom Sietsema Is Less Starry-Eyed About Mirabelle These Days [EDC]
- L’Hommage Bistro’s Being Replaced by a Millennial-Friendly Small Plates Restaurant [EDC]
- Mirabelle Is #1 in Tom Sietsema’s Spring Dining Guide [EDC]
- Sietsema’s Instantly Attracted to Mirabelle [EDC]
- Expect Traditional French Cooking, With Some Flourishes, at Mirabelle [EDC]
- A Look Inside Mirabelle, Bringing French Taste to Downtown [EDC]
- Frank Ruta Finds a Home at Bread Furst [EDC]