New and Improved

Posted October 5, 2005 at 4:03pm

After the summer sale of Signatures by a group headed by beleaguered lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the new owners have some changes in store to give the restaurant a new image.

The owners — Mark Smith, president of the Da Vinci Group; former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) of the Livingston Group; Phil Friedman, president and CEO of Computer Generated Solutions Inc.; and chef Morou Ouattara — plan to renovate and change the name of the popular politico hangout. “There will be a new look, name and feel to this entire location,” Smith said.

The owners plan to hold a renaming contest to give diners a chance to weigh in on the new moniker, he added.

Significant renovations to the bar and dining room are planned in the coming months, but the restaurant is expected to stay open throughout the process. A grand reopening is in the works for the end of the year.

The chef also is planning an updated menu to complement the new look of the restaurant, but Smith said many menu favorites, including the sushi and mini-burgers, will remain.

“Our favorite things will still be there, but Morou is a very creative chef and … we’re going to let him interpret American cuisine with an accent from all over the country and all over the world, and he’s very good at it,” Smith said.

As for the crowd, Smith said the owners will market the new restaurant to “a much larger demographic of clientele.”

“We don’t feel that enough people knew about the restaurant and all that it had to offer. And I think we need to give people the opportunity to discover just how terrific Morou is and just how wonderful it is to enjoy the [restaurant’s] overall ambience,” Smith said.

As for the location’s history of free meals for favored clients, Smith indicated that the new partners bought the restaurant with the intention of turning a profit. “One of our mottos is, ‘At the end of the day, everybody pays,’” he said.

Iron Chef Ouattara. Chef Morou Ouattara of the soon-to-be-renamed Signatures won the honor Wednesday of representing the District of Columbia on the Food Network, where he will challenge one of the Iron Chefs to a culinary battle. Chefs Ouattara, Ris Lacoste of 1789 and Cesare Lanfranconi of Ristorante Tosca each cooked a dish using a secret ingredient Wednesday for a panel of judges that included D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. Ouattara will head to New York City to take on Mario Batali, Bobby Flay or Masuhara Morimoto on “Iron Chef America.”

In other news, Lacoste just announced that she will be leaving 1789, the venerable Georgetown restaurant where she has served as executive chef since 1995, at the end of the year to open her own restaurant.

To Do List. This Saturday marks the 14th annual Cap City Bar Crawl, which this year will use its popularity to collect needed supplies for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Start out at Rumors or Mackey’s, where you can register from 1 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 with a donation and $13 without. Requested donations include bottled water, breakfast bars, baby food and canned foods.

The event offers $2 Buds and food specials until 9 p.m. at the Black Rooster Pub, The Bottom Line, The Front Page, Lulu’s, Five, Singapore Bistro, Porter’s Dining Saloon, Recessions, Madhatter and Sign of the Whale, in addition to Rumors and Mackey’s. Go to lindypromo.com for advance tickets.

Also contributing to the relief effort, Share Our Strength is mobilizing 50 of the country’s best chefs for the “Restaurants for Relief Gala” on Oct. 17 at the National Building Museum. The chefs will prepare Southern-style cuisine, which will be available for tasting. The event also will feature live entertainment and an auction.

Participating chefs from the D.C. area include James Clark of Palette, Rob Klink of Oceanaire, Roberto Donna of Galileo and Todd Gray of Equinox.

Tickets are $250 ($200 is tax deductible) and can be purchased at strength.org. The money donated through Share Our Strength’s Hurricane Relief Fund will be directed to local organizations providing relief to victims in the areas affected by the hurricane.