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‘Iron Chef’ Alum Morou Ouattara Weaves West African Spice Into NoMa’s Dining Scene

Plus, other hotel restaurants getting culinary makeovers

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A Southwestern-style burger at the newly opened Lily & the Cactus, named after chef Morou Ouattara’s youngest daughter.
Hilton Garden Inn [Official photo]

In a sign of how truly competitive the D.C. dining scene has become, hotel restaurants are switching up their menus, names, and leadership in order to stay relevant and fresh for locals and travelers alike.

Here’s a rundown of spots that have recently unveiled a new identity — or plan to do so shortly.

Lily & the Cactus: The second-level restaurant tucked inside NoMa’s Hilton Garden Inn, originally overseen by Equinox founder Todd Gray, now has another hospitality star behind the scenes: Top Chef alum and Kora founder Morou Ouattara. At his Crystal City restaurant Ouattara focuses on approachable Italian food. But he’s already begun mixing influences from his native West Africa into Hilton’s Southwestern-style bistro. Recent additions to the bar menu include zesty chips and salsa, as well as chicken and beef skewers. Other works in progress include a hearty rib-eye, and a chipotle shrimp appetizer parked atop a buttermilk corn cake. There’s also a generous happy hour, with discounted drinks from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Ask for bartender Moe. 1225 First Street NE

E’terie: The Embassy Suites by Hilton in Tysons Corner just completed a huge top-to-bottom renovation in June — its first since opening in 1983. The updated bar serves a “new” Old Fashioned and snacks such as piping hot pimento cheese and crackers. The brand’s new floating restaurant, E’terie, allows guests to order at the counter and opt to eat in the hotel’s community spaces, take it up to their room, or carryout. 8517 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, Va.

Mushroom kale flatbread at the new E’terie.
Embassy Suites by Hilton/official photo

Pinea: The nearly four-year-old Italian restaurant inside the W Hotel is getting replaced by a wood-fired venture in the coming months. The lobby restaurant and companion Root Cellar bar, which are both currently overseen by DGS alum Barry Koslow, will be wiped away as part of a $50 million renovation the hotel plans to complete by next spring. 515 15th Street NE

Art & Soul: The Southern-style restaurant inside Capitol Hill’s Liaison Hotel landed on diners’ radars when Michelle Obama ordered the fish special there in 2011. Later this year, the lobby-level destination is undergoing a total overhaul, complete with a new cuisine theme and name; details TBA. 415 New Jersey Avenue NW

Pinea

515 15th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20004 (202) 661-2440 Visit Website

Art and Soul

415 New Jersey Avenue Northwest, , DC 20001 (202) 393-7777 Visit Website

Kora

2250 Crystal Drive, , VA 22202 (571) 431-7090 Visit Website

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