Culinarily speaking, the Wharf’s luxe new Pendry hotel is all over the map. You can get a cheeseburger at the lobby-level bar (Bar Pendry), a squash blossom vegan quesadilla at its poolside Latin eatery (Flora Flora), and finish off a spicy tuna roll on its scenic rooftop (Moonraker).
Laguna Beach, California-based Montage International’s rapidly-expanding boutique brand boasts locations in seven U.S. cities, including Pendry Baltimore, Chicago, and San Diego, with more to come. The 131-room Pendry Washington D.C. (655 Water Street SW) is a key component of the Wharf’s Phase 2 expansion along the Southwest Waterfront, which includes glistening high-rises and an incoming surge of high-profile eateries.
D.C.’s debut Pendry opened in late October with a trio of dining and drinking gems all led by executive chef Barry Koslow, a local hospitality vet who previously oversaw operations at the Watergate and W hotels. Pendry’s globe-trotting roster of restaurants all share a locally-sourced theme, and Koslow plans to rotate ingredients based on the time of the year.
“Washington D.C. is an amazingly seasonal place,” Koslow tells Eater. “One of the things I love about it is we get all four seasons, and part of the joy of cooking in this city is that we are so close to so many great producers of everything.”
Each establishment adheres to upscale hotel prices, with cocktails hovering around $20 and entrees in the $20 to $40 range.
Tucked off the lobby, pint-sized Bar Pendry’s selection of bites take a back seat to the cocktails. Bar manager and Kith and Kin alum Sunny Seng isn’t shy with cocoa in his “Chocolate City,” comprised of rye, chocolate-infused vermouth, chocolate mole bitters, and chocolate-covered raisins. A pineapple-everything “Aggregate Hospitality” pays homage to the tropical fruit that symbolizes hospitality. It’s built with pineapple-infused rum, pineapple and lime juice, and pineapple syrup.
Fancy snacks at the gold-and-navy bar include caviar deviled eggs, a vegan beet poke, and mini lobster corn dogs, while a crab cake, grilled artichoke panini, and black bean burger offer a bit more substance. Koslow says he expects Bar Pendry’s food options to remain relatively stable compared to the hotel’s other two restaurants.
One level above, Mexican and Peruvian-influenced Flora Flora represents the hotel’s all-day eatery that serves breakfast and lunch to start, with dinner coming soon. The indoor/outdoor setup on the second floor offers a lush, earthy ambiance to mirror the vegetable dishes that make up half of its menu.
“It’s kind of trying to give that segment something extraordinary instead of another pasta dish or another mushroom gnocchi,” he says.
Morning options out of the gate include fruit and nut-laden overnight oats, an avocado toast on rye sprinkled with Tajin and pepitas, and huevos rancheros. For lunch, there’s tortilla soup, lomo saltado (a Peruvian beef stir fry), and avocado tacos. The kitchen is workshopping a celery root pastor, he says. Thinly-cut celery will be spiced and roasted with pineapple to imitate the texture and taste of pork.
The final piece of the culinary puzzle sits on the 14th floor, where soaring views of the Potomac are coupled with small bites, sushi, and an array of libations at swanky, 150-seat Moonraker.
A big circular bar centers around Japanese highballs that mix bright flavors with bubbles. “Fuji Apple Sonic” features imo shochu, Lillet Rosé, peach liqueur, and fuji apple juice, while a fizzy “Ichigo-Go” features gin, strawberry shrub, and strawberry liqueur.
Rooftop eats include spicy tuna with crispy rice, okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese street food pancake), and Tokyo fried chicken. An array of sashimi, maki, and nigiri options highlight in-season fish, while unexpected fusions play out in dishes like cacio e pepe rice cakes and yuzu profiteroles.
“We have a lot of little playful things that we do here, kind of outside of the box a little bit, that challenge people to play with their expectations,” says Koslow.
Koslow says he feels the pressure in a city, and neighborhood, where the culinary caliber is higher than ever.
“I’ve been in the city for a long time and it’s challenging to come in and really have a great restaurant that stands up with a lot of these other great restaurants,” he says.
Phase 2 will also include blockbuster arrivals from Gordon Ramsay (Hell’s Kitchen) and celebrated Chinese chef Philippe Chow, along with fast-casual options for burgers (Lucky Buns); buttery Maine lobster rolls (Mason’s Famous); Latin street foods (Bartaco); and pizza (Slice of Matchbox). Ramsay’s new Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips was the first big opening so far.
“The competition is just really driving everyone to be better and to make every experience incredible because the bar’s so high,” says Koslow.
—Tierney Plumb contributed to this report