Urbana names new chef

(Photo by Scott Suchman)

Urbana's new chef Ethan McKee. (Photo by Scott Suchman)

A veteran of Circle Bistro and Equinox is the fresh face in the kitchen at Urbana. And Ethan McKee, 36, says he intends to “keep it light” in the cozy dining room of the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle.

In addition to a “strong focus” on seafood and vegetables, the cooking will emphasize simple preparations and “not a lot of manipulation,” the recent hire says. McKee’s menu, expected to roll out in August, will represent “the way I like to eat these days.”

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 native’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. “What I took away from that experience,” says McKee, “is more about portion size than about (banning) any ingredient.”

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 – 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.

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