Visitors to the National Museum of the American Indians Mitsitam Cafe can enjoy the cedar-planked salmon platter.
Things took an incredibly delicious turn when José Andrés assumed control of the entire operation a few years later.
“He didn’t want to do just two or three dishes. He wanted to do the whole menu and a buffet,” Ziska said of the gustatory full monty the frenetic Spanish chef proposed. “That kind of blew it out of the park. We can’t go back now,” she said of the comprehensive dining plan they’ve attempted to adhere to ever since.
Chef and restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi, who returned to D.C. after several years in New York City, signed on to coordinate the latest iteration of the cafe even as he was still putting the finishing touches on his nationally recognized new restaurant, Fiola.
“It’s a great experience,” Trabocchi said of translating the comfort food of his countrymen — “things that people can recognize” was how he described a rotating carte sprinkled with the likes of antipasti, baked eggplant parmesan and tiramisu — for art lovers.
Trabocchi said he delivered four seasonal menus to National Gallery executive chef David Rogers and has been very pleased by the execution of it all.
“He has absorbed the menu and the recipes very well,” Trabocchi gushed, adding that he’s even received compliments about the museum menu from the pleasure seekers who frequent his tony Penn Quarter spot.
Ziska conceded that their attempt at a Danish menu was perhaps the most trying experiment (no guest chef participated that time). But she painted the rest of the concepts as glowing successes. “It’s a fun, multisensory experience,” she said.
Next up: Café Cataluña, a nod to the forthcoming Joan Miró exhibit (opening April 2012).
Carl Schuster, CEO of Wolfgang Puck Catering, said bringing his very famous boss to D.C. was no small feat.
The company began talking with then-Rosslyn-based Freedom Forum about incorporating a marquee restaurant into their future downtown location as far back as 2003. According to Schuster, the powers-that-be behind the prospective Newseum were very interested in aligning themselves with Puck because they wanted someone who could provide commercial catering as well as a “special” and “different” dining experience.
Early talks, as per usual, gravitated toward a frou-frou steakhouse, a proposition Puck flatly refused. The West Coast chef had high-end Asian on the brain, so he did some lobbying of his own.
“They wanted a top-five restaurant ... [but] we had to get them comfortable with the whole modern Asian [theme],” Schuster said.
Whatever jitters the Newseum folks might have had were quickly quelled once executive chef Scott Drewno slid behind the burners. In just a few short years, Drewno has garnered national awards, charmed locals with a stupendous dim sum brunch and even has reinterpreted humble banh mi (chili-marinated pork belly, anyone?) for the haute cuisine set.
The boss is so stoked about the Source, Schuster said he recently received very specific marching orders.
“You need to find more of these,” the expansion-minded Puck tasked Schuster after a recent swing through D.C. “He just thinks that it showcases us as a brand really well. So I am on the search for more Newseums.”