The stark white kitchen at Whino is essentially the only part of the new Arlington art gallery/restaurant opening tomorrow that’s devoid of color. The hybrid establishment from gallery owner Shane Pomajambo is completely wrapped in mural installations, even on the ceilings.
Whino’s executive chef Eleftherios (Terry) Natas takes a similarly creative approach with menu, which focuses on “social plates” designed for sharing. The massive, 6,200-square-foot fixture joins the growing Ballston Quarter complex on Friday, June 18, complete with an impressive 360-degree backdrop for its diners and art show attendees to enjoy (4238 Wilson Boulevard).
“We really want a group to come in and order one of everything on the menu,” Natas tells Eater, adding that everything is “a play off of a traditional dish.”
A gyro wrapped in flaky phyllo dough comes drizzled with whipped feta and leek yogurt. Instead of just paella, Natas focuses on crispy rice — his favorite part of paella — cooked in a saffron lobster broth and topped with seafood like shrimp, clams, and monkfish.
The diverse menu draws inspiration from various parts of the globe.
“None of the cultures are actually fused but it’s inspired by multiple different genres of cooking,” says Natas, whose 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry spans several cuisines. “I am Greek American, my parents are from northern Greece. That’s where a lot of Greek and Middle Eastern flavor comes from in my cooking.”
Natas most recently worked at Richard Sandoval Hospitality’s El Centro D.F., where he developed menus for the restaurant.
Natas and Pomajambo bounced ideas off each other for Whino, and Pomajambo — a longtime veteran of D.C.’s art scene who opened his popular art gallery Art Whino back in 2007 — even contributed his own special Peruvian aji verde sauce for Nata’s porchetta roast.
Whino is Pomajambo’s baby: his firm, Moderne Design Inc. of Great Falls, Virginia designed and built the restaurant/gallery’s interior from a shell. The inspiration to open the restaurant/bar/gallery arrived when Art Whino hit its 10-year anniversary, and he decided to combine his love of hosting and event planning with his expertise in lowbrow/pop surrealist art.
“It’s everything that I’ve done on a grander scale,” Pomajambo tells Eater about the venture.
The moody space is meant to feel like a New York loft, incorporating black steel ceilings and plush seating. It’s also massive, with room for up to 400 and 173 seats. The open floor plan is divided into six different zones, with a different artist covering each zone with murals and art walls (with art for sale, of course). Along with a retail space, there are two dining room spaces and three different bars: a 25-seat open kitchen bar; 51-foot craft cocktail bar and a beverage tasting bar which can accommodate 11 guests for tastings.
“Some people say it’s one of the longest bars in Virginia. I’m going to have to start fact-checking, because if that is the case, we are going to run with it,” Pomajambo jokes.
His plan is to have events throughout the week, hosting art shows and artists for signings, as well as bringing in wineries, breweries, and distillers to host tastings. A newsletter will keep collectors and art fans in the loop. Natas will add brunch and lunch after Whino opens, and hopes to create Sunday family-style dinners devoted to different cuisines, like a Greeek dinner with leg of lamb and spanakopita or an Italian dinner with eggplant parmesan and meatballs.
For the first year, the installations by artists like Woes, Dragon76, and Caratoes will stay the same, but then Whino’s artwork and murals will begin to rotate.
“The reason I did that is it’s not decoration, it’s a living gallery,” Pomajambo says. “It’s bringing that whole street art culture into a restaurant where it’s only a limited time. So you better go and take a photo of it, because before you know it it’s gone and then your next favorite artist comes in.”
Whino will be open from Monday through Wednesday, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday, from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.