Cell phones have gotten a bad rap in restaurants lately -- from the viral Craigslist post about cell phones and service, to a City Paper column, to the opening of the phone-free Sheppard. But at the Oval Room, which reopens Monday after a $1 million revamp, you're invited to Instagram and Vine to your heart's content. And we've already gotten started with this photo of yellowfin tuna with ginger dressing and spicy tapioca below.
"Everything is photo-worthy, and some things are video-worthy," said Simon Stilwell, general manager for the restaurant. "We want people taking pictures of the food and the space and the drinks ... We want them to be part of the experience and to be able to share that with others, too."
Among those photo-worthy new additions: a series of bar snacks (fry bread, duck confit tater tots), a new Asian-inspired menu with char-grilled octopus, ginger-saffron marinated lobster, and crab salad with peach cocktail sauce, and a list of cocktails that reads like a Lou Bega song (They're named Monika, Rosalie, Alejandra, and Scarlett, among others). That's in addition to the sleek and modern new lighting fixtures, a marble bar, and bold abstract and representational art that now covers the walls, thanks to Martin Vahtra, who designed sister restaurants Rasika West End and NoPa. And to the commenter on Tom Sietsema's chat who inquired about the ladies' room -- yes, it's gotten a facelift, too.
The goal, said Knightsbridge Restaurant Group owner Ashok Bajaj, was to update the dated space so that both millennials and power lunchers would feel at home.
"Even the power diners ... everybody wants a little more relaxed restaurant," said Bajaj. But the new look doesn't mean that the proper service from the old version of the restaurant will go away: "We’re not compromising on what our goals are here at all, in a fine dining way."
The first step towards bringing in a younger crowd was revamping the bar, which used to be an afterthought.
"Before, there was no real bar, it was just something in the way of getting to the dining room," said Stilwell. "Now the bar is very much a focal point of the restaurant."
It will also host the restaurant's first-ever happy hour, from 5-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, when diners can get 20 percent off of all drinks. The deal applies to the patio, too. Bar snacks will be an affordable $4-$7 and fine-dining deals abound: A four-course tasting menu is $60 ($90 with beverage pairings), and an entree-drink-dessert deal for lunch at the bar is $20.
Now that the renovation is complete, Bajaj says he's contemplating his next restaurant and scoping out locations. He offered no hints as to where it will be located, but said that it will likely be an Asian concept.
Check out the Oval Room's new menus, below.
The Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. 202-463-8700. (Metro: Farragut West). Opening Monday, Aug. 4.