Agraria Opens, Sans Chef

Agraria Restaurant opened quietly this weekend, offering a limited menu and limited seating as it gears up for summer primetime.

Unfortunately, executive chef Paul Morello has already departed. The restaurant's publicist assures Metrocurean that the restaurant is forging ahead: "Fortunately, we have a very strong kitchen team, and have been opened for dinner since Saturday with a limited, pre-opening Bistro menu while we conduct a search for an executive chef."

While the kitchen waits for a leader, the bar appeared ready to impress when sommelier and restaurant manager Derek Brown hosted an intimate bar preview last week. The signature martini, made with Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters, was a knockout with its clean, refreshing taste. The drink is served with a tray of pickled garlic, olives and peppers. A cocktail after my own heart, for sure.

The Sidecar (Hennessey VS, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup) and Sazerac (Jim Beam Rye, Ricard, Angostura and Peychaud's bitters, simple syrup and a "secret ingredient") were also hits. The bartenders were enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and the bar itself is roomy and attractive. (Check out this month's issue of DC magazine for more on the space.)

Flighty chefs seem to be haunting many of D.C.'s new restaurants lately. Zengo's opening chef Alan Yu jumped ship before the opening party for a gig at Pauli Moto's, and OYA lost chef Kingsley John just a few months after it opened its doors. (John was just featured in the May issue of Bon Appetit with his family.) Existing restaurants, like The Oval Room and China Gourmet, have also had problems.

Agraria is located on the Georgetown waterfront at 3000 K St.