Chef Nicholas Sharpe is opening a restaurant with aspirations of becoming a reliable neighborhood place for Dupont Circle, so the contemporary American menu at Lyle’s will offer chicken noodle soup. But the comfort food coming from the new bar and kitchen, coming soon within the Lyle DC hotel that’s replacing the Carlyle on New Hampshire Avenue NW, won’t be quite as simple as it sounds.
The quotes in Sharpe’s chicken “noodle” soup tease a technique that waiters will have to explain to customers. The chef simmers noodles, mirepoix, and bits of chicken with thyme, bay leaves, and other seasonings before blending the whole bowl and straining the solution through a chinois. The thickened broth — “smooth and velvety” and almost similar to a velouté, Sharpe says — goes into a bowl with green garlic that’s been softened in butter, then garnished with green garlic top espuma, creme fraiche, and lots of black pepper.
“When you taste it, [it’s] the idea that you’re not going to overthink it,” says Sharpe, who has worked as a culinary director for Michael Mina, for Fabio Trabocchi at Fiamma in New York City, and had a cup of coffee at Birch and Barley. “I want you to be brought back to that chicken noodle soup that you had when you were young or you were sick and your mom or your grandma made it for you.”
This is simplicity, or at least the appearance of it, in a business run by the Lore Group, a luxury hotel company with properties in London, Amsterdam, and D.C. that has previously aligned itself with accomplished names in the cooking and bartending worlds (see Momofuku alum Patrick Curran at Cafe Riggs in Penn Quarter, or British mixology innovator Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka “Mr. Lyan,” in D.C. and London).
The last restaurant tenant at the 1940s-era Art Deco building, Michael Schlow’s the Riggsby, was all about recognizable throwbacks from the age of Continental dining. Lyle’s wants to encourage repeat visits with dishes as straightforward as a white cheddar cheeseburger with thousand island dressing, but the restaurant will generally follow a path of serving whatever Sharpe likes to eat. That means Japanese and other Asian ingredients show up in instances like a crudo of New Jersey farmed scallops dressed in olive oil and yuzu juice and paired with diced green apple and jalapeno in a yuzu cilantro aioli. Grilled king salmon gets treated with soy and ginger and served with bok choy and Calrose rice. Brined, twice-fried chicken absorbs a coating of potato starch overnight before cooks brush on a rice flour batter.
A little gem salad with avocados is vegan-friendly thanks to a coconut ranch. Smoked mushrooms stand in for guanciale in a spaghetti with tomato sauce cooked a la minute that represents a vegetarian reference to pasta alla amatriciana.
The bar at Lyle’s has is its own menu with snacks like crispy artichokes with herb vinaigrette, charred padron peppers with garlic aioli, or lamb meatballs with harissa tomato sauce. The cocktail menu, a collaboration between Lore Group bar director Alex Lawrence, in London, and D.C.-based assistant director of food and beverage Krystle Hewitt, follows the same (mostly) classic approach. There’s a smoked Moscow mule with chipotle adding more heat to the ginger spice, a cacao Manhattan with maple and rye, and a grapefruit soda spritz with elderflower. For brunch, a bloody mary folds in yuzu and miso.
“I love doing the grandeur stuff, I think it’s really fantastic, but when you can create a place that feels like a second home, those are the really interesting projects,” Lawrence says, comparing Lyle’s easy-going attitude to gilded style at Cafe Riggs.
Lyle DC (1731 New Hampshire Avenue NW) advertises an April opening on is website. The reservation portal for Lyle’s has slots starting Friday, April 16.
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- Inside The Riggsby, Dupont Circle’s Retro Neighborhood Joint (with Fabulous Wallpaper) [EDC]