Deja vu washes over me like a tidal wave at Cure Bar & Bistro, the new three-tiered lounge and restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Washington.
Part of the feeling is prompted by the $2.3 million setting, which replaces Butler's Cigar Bar and could pass for an airport lounge. (That's not a slight; I'm referring to the sleek, European variety of lounge, not the bland American holding tanks.)
On the street level of Cure, soft leather chairs are arranged before flat screens whose dazzling postcard images reflect places you'd be thrilled to visit -- the Forbidden City in Beijing, the canals of Venice -- if airfares weren't so high and the U.S. dollar so weak. The color scheme of espresso (banquette), amber (bar) and stone (veneer) is decidedly masculine and easy on the eyes. Deeper into the venue are intimate booths overlooking the atrium of the hotel; a flight of stairs leads down to more seating.
The view from the bottom takes in a pool of water punctuated with a raised piano that never seems to get used, a Starbucks and a wall of guest room windows. The scene here wouldn't look out of place in a shopping mall -- not so transporting.
The sense of having experienced Cure, or something very similar, occurs again when I'm handed the wine list, which offers liquids in four different amounts, and when I scan the single-page menu. Like every other new restaurant, this one trots out a bunch of cheese selections. Following the current vogue, Cure, which takes its name from the process by which many of its dishes are prepared, deposits a selection of salts on the table. And much like the Blue Duck Tavern across town, this place serves rustic-sounding food -- snappy pork sausages, macaroni and cheese beefed up with smoked ham, plump roasted shrimp -- often pulled from the restaurant's stone oven.
Of all the dishes created by chef Kevin Villalovos, who last worked at the Hyatt Capitol Hill, the one I'd be most eager to try again is his blue crab pie. The seafood is combined with corn, cream, potatoes and celery, then topped with crushed crackers and brushed with butter before baking.
The entree is simple and straightforward, and it conjures home rather than hotel.
--Tom Sietsema (First Bite, June 4, 2008)