Knowing full well the D.C. market goes wild for Maryland crab, the Point executive chef Benjamin Lambert wanted to use the Chesapeake product in a couple ways he hadn’t tried before over a career that includes stops under big-name chefs in New York, Baltimore, and the District.
At the anticipated grill, which opens for dinner with a limited menu tonight (Wednesday, April 14) in a riverside section of Southwest, Lambert is serving seafood dishes as simple as peel-and-eat shrimp and as novel as buttery, savory doughnuts that have been lightened up with potato starch, piped full of crab dip, and dusted in Old Bay seasoning. Lambert’s new recipe for roasted oysters calls for breadcrumbs and a compound butter he makes with miso, crab meat, and a reduced crab stock he says has “a super intense flavor.”
“We’re just trying to put [the restaurant] in the category of, we want you to come and eat here every day,” Lambert says. “We have some complex dishes, we have some really simple dishes, and we have something in the middle.”
The Point (2100 Second Street SW) comes from Fish & Fire Food Group, the parent company for Ivy City Tavern, Georgetown standbys Tony and Joe’s and Nick’s Riverside Grill, and sustainable seafood purveyor ProFish. Its arrival on the ground level of an apartment building that used to house the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters immediately boosts the restaurant scene for Buzzard Point. The neighborhood developing around D.C.’s pro soccer stadium contains a stretch of waterfront that connects the Wharf development to Navy Yard. The massive restaurant space includes room for 280 indoor seats at full capacity — or 70 diners during the current 25-percent cap — and a patio with room for 140 people that overlooks the tip of the land where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers meet.
“It’s probably one of the better views you can get in the city,” Lambert says. “It’s so calm and peaceful down here.”
The leadup to opening came with one big curveball for Lambert and his staff. Last Friday, DC Fire responded to flames inside a restaurant storage room that triggered sprinklers and an alarm. A representative for the Point says the fire did not originate from the restaurant kitchen, but plans to unveil a wood-burning hearth are on hold for a couple weeks. In the meantime, Lambert’s team will grill off items like whole branzino, Ora King Salmon, dry-aged ribeye, and smoked spareribs on a gas-powered rig that’s in place for catering events.
Lambert says he learned his way around a wood-fired grill when he opened Michael Mina’s now-closed Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons in Baltimore. In D.C., he worked with Nora Pouillon as chef de cuisine at pioneering organic eatery Restaurant Nora, led the kitchen at posh 701 Restaurant downtown, and opened District Winery in Navy Yard.
One dish he’s excited to serve once the hearth is in play is a cauliflower shawarma he prepares by pickling the whole head, adding a tahini-based marinade and shawarma spices, roasting the vegetable until it’s caramelized, then serving it with pink lentil-cashew hummus, tzatziki, and pita.
Another he’s developed over the years is a version of duck breast “burnt ends” he makes with a marinade of soy, honey, and plum jam.
“It gets really sweet and acidic and sticky on the duck,” Lambert says. “All you see is the black on top of it, so it reminded me of burnt ends.”
Lambert uses the leftover duck legs to make a sausage that’s part of a fresh agnolotti pasta dish stuffed with a filling made from fontina cheese, celery root, and pears. That gets served in a sauce that contains cultured butter whey, pickled pears, and basil oil. There’s also Prince Edward Island mussels in a coconut kimchi broth and a cobia crudo with strawberry leche de tigre sauce, but diners looking for more common options will find fried calamari, fish and chips, and jumbo lump crabcake sandwiches.
Eventually, the Point will also introduce a sushi bar to show off the freshest catch from ProFish. Beside the Point, an accompanying market selling boardwalk-style snacks like fried shrimp rolls and soft-serve ice cream to go, will open at a later date.