The Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City has revamped its restaurant as a Mediterranean place that serves modern meze, small pours of glamorous Napa wines, and an espresso martini built with a brand of chocolate rum owned by Bruno Mars.
Santé opened over the weekend at 1250 S. Hayes Street in Arlington, Virginia, for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. A tall gold-and-blue sliding door opens into a lobby-level space that most recently housed Fyve, the American bistro that opened under chef Amy Brandwein in 2008, long before she was a perennial contender for James Beard awards at Centrolina.
Longtime Ritz-Carlton executive chef Phil Skerman’s is in charge of Santé, which translates to “health” in French, alongside chef de cuisine Kevin Marshall-Broderick. The menu (full version below) is split up into sections for “bites,” “social” portions, and more composed “plates.” The first portion includes thick chickpea fries served with a Greek yogurt dip. Other starters include grilled Virginia oysters with citrus and harissa butter and a pan-seared shrimp saganaki with black garlic and tomato fondue. Middle Eastern influences show up in a lamb kofta appetizer, a fattoush salad, and cf charred Atlantic salmon with dukkah vinaigrette. Steak frites come with a North African chermoula butter.
Santé’s spin on an Italian osso bucco subs in a braised lamb shank for veal. The meat gets placed prominently on a bed of okra, pearl couscous, rosemary, mint, lamb jus, and veggie puree with a little harissa paste for a kick.
The bar tweaks a traditional espresso martini by swapping out vodka for Panamanian Selvarey chocolate rum and naming it “Runaway Baby Espresso-Tini” for the hit song from the pop star owner.
Wine aficionados can sample high-end pours in 1-, 3-, and 6-ounce portions from a list that includes esteemed Napa grapes like a 2017 Opus One red blend ($20, $50, $95) and 2007 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon ($10, $30, $55).
The bar is serving draft beer for the first time and embraces the new coastal theme with soft blue seats made of cork. Blue is also a prominent tone throughout the updated, tablecloth-free restaurant that covers booths in a reptile print. There are 64 seats in the dining room and another 48 in a private area.
Before Santé was Fyve, it housed The Grill and Lobby Lounge some 30 years ago. The hotel is the real setting for scenes from Ryan Murphy’s new season of Impeachment: American Crime Story. Episode 6 almost entirely takes place inside a Ritz room and the adjacent Pentagon City mall in 1998, where Monica Lewinsky was interrogated by the FBI about her alleged affair with the then-President Bill Clinton based on taped conversations with Linda Tripp.