The Mandarin Oriental hotel near the Southwest waterfront will add a new restaurant next month that focuses on “American bistro” fare like like tamarind-glazed Angus short rib or seared scallops with Thai-style crispy curry rice, peanut relish, and passionfruit.
Amity & Commerce is heading to the space that used to house CityZen, the fine-dining spot where Eric Ziebold won a James Beard award for Best Chef:Mid-Atlantic in 2008. Amity & Commerce has an ambitious menu but aims to be more casual than Ziebold’s old special occasion, which closed in 2014.
Chef de cuisine Justin Houghtaling says he hopes to appeal to residents inside the tony Wharf development who are looking for a neighborhood restaurant, serve tourists staying at the hotel, and cater to workers who want to get in and out of lunch in 45 minutes.
“We want to be an easy place for people to come in and enjoy themselves,” says Houghtaling, who worked for chef Robert Wiedmaier at Brasserie Beck and Marcel’s. He’s also spent time at Bourbon Steak. This will be his first job in a top role.
His opening menu follows French bistro traditions while paying tribute to local ingredients and global influences found throughout the District.
Besides the “Plat du Jour” menu, Amity & Commerce’s bistro theme will be evident in the colorful, individual casserole dishes acting as serving dishes. That includes a monkfish en cocotte with roasted peppers and pearl onions, snap peas, and smoked bacon. Then there’s a vegetable crespelle, with layers of crepes, zucchini, sheep’s milk ricotta, tomato ragu, and herbed breadcrumb gratin.
“The easy way to put it is it’s almost like a crepe lasagna,” Houghtaling says.
The menu will change seasonally, with a rotating selection of regional seafood along with a grill serving up cuts of Snake River flat iron or Allen Brothers ribeye.
Executive pastry chef Claus Olsen, who’s been with the Mandarin Oriental Group for over 15 years, will handle desserts, with fanciful takes like a frosted carrot garden cake topped with micro greens.
An open kitchen and a glass-encased wall of wine will be a key part of the restaurant’s modern look.
Meanwhile, that name nods to D.C.’s past and serves as a history lesson for diners. America’s first treaty was the the Treaty for Amity & Commerce that established peace and friendship between the U.S. and France in 1778..
Amity & Commerce will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and grab-and-go items. The restaurant is expected to open in early October, with a grand opening slated for November.