Ba Bay, the contemporary Vietnamese restaurant on Capitol Hill, quietly closed its doors last Friday because of “circumstances beyond our control,” e-mails co-owner Denise Nguyen. The closing brings a mysterious end to a restaurant that originally promised to put a modern American spin on Vietnamese cooking for D.C. diners.
“It brings me great sadness to inform you that Ba Bay has closed its doors,” Nguyen e-mailed this morning. “Due to circumstances beyond our control, the last day of service was Friday, November 18, 2011. It was a pleasure to serve Washington D.C., and especially the Capitol Hill and Eastern Market neighborhood. Ba Bay is eternally grateful for the support of its guests, friends, colleagues and staff who all made this last year so special.”
Nguyen and her cousin, Khoa Nguyen, opened Ba Bay last fall in the former Locanda space on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The owners hired former Sonoma chef Nick Sharpe, a rank newbie to Vietnamese cuisine, to bring a fresh eye and a fresh take to some of the street classics of Vietnam, whether pho or banh mi. But as Tom Sietsema reported in June, Sharpe departed Ba Bay for a job with the Michael Mina group in San Francisco, leaving the kitchen to Khoa Nguyen, a trained chef, who put the brakes on the modern Vietnamese approach and promised “more fish sauce everywhere.”
Now this closing, which comes almost a year to the day that Ba Bay opened on Nov. 17.
Nguyen explained via e-mail that the owners aren’t “at liberty to disclose much more . . . for the time being.” When asked whether Ba Bay might reopen on Capitol Hill, or somewhere else, in the future, Denise Nguyen wrote:
“There is no telling of what the future may hold. Khoa and I look forward to the day when we get another chance to grace the city with the food that we grew up with.”
For what it’s worth, the critics had mixed feelings about Ba Bay. Sietsema awarded it 1 1/2 stars and noted that the “words on the menu are frequently more enticing than what shows up on the table. Ba Bay is a tease that doesn’t always deliver the goods.” The Washingtonian, by contrast, gave it two stars under a headline calling it a “nice updating of a traditional cuisine on Capitol Hill.”