A veteran of Circle Bistro and Equinox is the fresh face in the kitchen at Urbana. And Ethan McKee, 36, says he intends to â€śkeep it lightâ€ť in the cozy dining room of the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle.
In addition to a â€śstrong focusâ€ť on seafood and vegetables, the cooking will emphasize simple preparations and â€śnot a lot of manipulation,â€ť the recent hire says. McKeeâ€™s menu, expected to roll out in August, will represent â€śthe way I like to eat these days.â€ť
Future attractions include a beet salad with roast carrots, goat cheese and red quinoa tied together with walnut vinaigrette, as well as diver scallop carpaccio with summer truffles and lemon oil. The latter was a dish he made for his interview with the San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, his new employer.
Food followers may recall the Texas nativeâ€™s work with a nutritionist at the late Rock Creek at Mazza, the good-for-you restaurant where patrons could find three-course meals for under 1,000 calories and where butter and cream were absent. â€śWhat I took away from that experience,â€ť says McKee, â€śis more about portion size than about (banning) any ingredient.â€ť
Instead of serving say, five to six ounces of protein on a plate in his new digs, the chef wants to offer three to four ounces of meat, fowl or seafood â€“ and pass the savings on to diners. McKee hopes to keep most of his plates under $20.
Pizza fans needn't be concerned: Anthony Pilla is still flipping his great pies near the big oven in the rear of the 100-seat restaurant (double the size of Circle Bistro, where McKee cooked for the past 4 1/2 years, and one reason for his move).
McKee replaces John Critchley, who left to head up Bourbon Steak in the Four Seasons in March.