Aug. 28, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

NoMa Experiencing Watershed Moment

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Wade Hoo Fatt, chef de cuisine of Watershed on First Street Northeast, displays a soft-shell crab entree in the new restaurant’s main dining room .

The dining room itself features a bar and lounge, with a raw bar on one side that Hoo Fatt calls Todd Gray’s “toy.” An airy dining room and — happy-hour questers  should take note — a large patio with shady umbrellas can accommodate substantial crowds.

The décor is sleek and contemporary, but it is saved from hotel-bar banality with touches that reflect the restaurant’s theme and location.  Large black-and-white photos of oyster boats are a nod to the food’s origins, and a painting of Eastern Market reminds patrons where they’re dining. A three-starred D.C. flag behind the bar adds more local flavor, and the mirrors lining the dining room are the creations of a local artist.

Scott Foreman, director of operations, shows off a feature of the restaurant that he hopes will draw Hill denizens: a modern, light-filled ballroom space just off the restaurant, where groups can hold large-scale meetings, fundraisers and receptions. The room has its own entrance to the outdoor patio to accommodate an indoor-outdoor event.

Foreman wants political types to take note. “What I hear from people who go to these events and who plan them is just that they’re tired of the same places over and over again,” he says. “We can provide some variety.”

The neighborhood surrounding the restaurant is changing rapidly, with large office buildings springing up along a formerly scruffy corridor. The nightclub Ibiza and the aging Greyhound bus station are remnants of the district’s past, while the new Harris Teeter and a stretch of lunch-hour favorites like Potbelly point to its future. There are plans for more full-fledged restaurants, such as the Gillian Clark-helmed Kitchen on K Street a few blocks away.

So far, though, Watershed is the only upscale, sit-down restaurant for blocks. But lack of alternatives is far from the only reason to visit. 

NoMa, at least when it comes to dining, might just be having its watershed moment.

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