Michael Rafidi will return to a D.C. kitchen next month, but it won’t be his own.
The opening chef at Arroz and Requin, who left the well-regarded restaurants before they shuttered amid owner Mike Isabella’s fall from grace, will preview his interpretations of Middle Eastern and North African food on the menu at his forthcoming solo project, Albi, during a two-night pop-up at Erik Bruner-Yang’s Spoken English. The standing room-only venue in the Line hotel will host Rafidi on Sunday, March 3, and Monday, March 4.
The pop-up includes a prix fixe menu of mostly family-style dishes for $85. There will also be the option of a $35 wine pairing from Brent Kroll, Rafidi’s partner in Albi and a founder of the Maxwell Park wine bar in Shaw. Reservations are available here.
Rafidi tells Eater that the pop-up menu isn’t finalized yet, but he’s planning on cooking octopus with harissa barbecue sauce, a burnt eggplant spread similar to one from Arroz, and sourdough pita. He’ll put the wood-fired grill at Spoken English to good use, because “the food is really forward with charcoal and slow-cooking over embers.”
Named Eater D.C.’s 2017 Chef of the Year, Rafidi says Albi will be an avenue for him to cook from the heart and riff off what he ate as a kid growing up in Montgomery County. The pop-up will reflect a journey through the Levant, the Eastern Mediterranean region that includes Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan.
“Nothing’s going to be traditional at Albi,” he says. “Everything’s going to be my interpretation of the dishes, and just a fresh extension. I’m not going to do anything that my grandma does better than me. I’m going to do something that’s inspired by that.”
Albi’s new home base will feature a wood-burning hearth and is expected to open in Navy Yard this summer. A second Maxwell Park will part of the project as well. Rafidi says there will be a few more pop-ups before the restaurant opens.