Menu MBK to open, letter by letter, starting Jan. 24

January 16, 2014

You can't make everyone happy, but Frederik De Pue is going to try. There's something for everyone in the chef's newest concept, Menu MBK, a market, bar and chef's table that will open, piece by piece, beginning Jan. 24.


(Courtesy of Greg Powers)

Menu replaces Azur, De Pue's Penn Quarter seafood restaurant that closed in September after only five months. De Pue told Tom Sietsema he wasn't drawing the crowds needed to support the large space. Even though Azur was very personal to De Pue, drawing upon his childhood in Belgium, he said the choice to retool was not difficult to make.

Part of the problem was the four-level configuration of the space, which formerly housed multiple Jose Andres concepts, including Cafe Atlantico/Minibar and America Eats Tavern. Because guests preferred to sit upstairs, De Pue said, passersby would look at the restaurant from the ground floor and think it was deserted. Hence his decision to convert Menu's street level into a more inviting market space. 

"We have this gorgeous building with this main floor which would be great for that concept," De Pue said, "and to create a small restaurant upstairs, you don't need 150 people [to fill it], you need only 50 people."


Mussels and saffron rice at Menu (Courtesy of Greg Powers).

Opening Jan. 24: Menu Market, the street-level space filled with produce, cheese, charcuterie and dairy from local providers like Bounty Hill Farms and Meadow Creek Dairy. You'll also find specialty goods like wine, chocolates and honey, in addition to house-made jarred sauces, sandwiches, pastas, locally roasted coffee and pre-packaged dinners for two, all available for takeout. Menu's market will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.


The BistroBar at Menu. (Courtesy of Greg Powers)

Opening Jan. 30: The BistroBar, a lounge area occupying the third and fourth floors. By day, it will be a place for Menu shoppers to eat their sandwiches and drink coffee, with free WiFi. At 5 p.m. it switches over to a casual bar with craft cocktails, wine and an extensive list of Belgian beers. "I have to make my father proud," De Pue said. For happy-hour hunters, drink selections will come with complimentary snacks that showcase the market's offerings. If you want something heartier, larger brasserie plates, from escargot to steak tartare, are priced from $8 to $25.

Opening Feb. 20: Menu Kitchen, De Pue's six-seat chef's table, will serve a five-course, $65 tasting menu. Expect casseroles, stews and roasts among the offerings. Reservations for Menu Kitchen's two seatings -- 6 and 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday -- can be made by phone at 202-347-7491.


Menu Kitchen. (Courtesy of Greg Powers)

As for the name Menu, De Pue said he's been tossing it around in his head for years. Though it will be followed by the initials MBK -- Market, BistroBar and Kitchen -- that can only do so much to assuage the fact that it's the least Google-friendly restaurant to open in D.C. since, well, Table, also owned by De Pue.

"It's short, it has a depth to it," he said. "I like straightforward names."

Menu, 405 8th Street NW. 202-347-7491. Opening Jan. 24.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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