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Dish

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Operating five places to eat in close-in Northern Virginia, including Tallula in Arlington and Rustico in Alexandria, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group has that area pretty well covered. Now the company is looking to open its first establishment in the District, in what used to be Dakota Cowgirl, at 1337 14th St. NW.

The sixth restaurant has yet to be named, but its principals already have plenty of plans for the Logan Circle location. One of them is billing it as a "beer-forward and wine-friendly" double headliner consisting of a dining room on the ground floor and a spacious bar upstairs.

Each level will have its own menu designed by Frank Morales, the executive chef at Rustico, who intends also to fill that role in Washington. For the dining room, he's thinking pizza from a wood-burning oven, leg of lamb with turnip butter, and roasted lobster in Sauternes, dishes destined to serve two in the vessels they're cooked in. For the bar, the chef has developed numerous themed trios of small plates that will be served together on a wooden board. Tuna, for instance, will be offered grilled, with tomato oil; as tartare, with a poblano pesto; and in the form of carpaccio, with roasted lemon jam.

Meanwhile, co-owner Michael Babin is aiming for "the finest beer destination on the East Coast." To that end, Rustico's beer director, Greg Engert , plans to stock the future endeavor with 500 labels, 100 styles and 50 draft beers. "It won't be a cattle call of beer," Engert promises. "No Miller Lite." But there will be such dear choices as a gueuze (an unflavored blended lambic beer) from Drie Fonteinen, a tiny Belgian brewery that ages the stuff for up to nine months in French oak barrels. Engert says he wants to serve the prized beer -- known for its funky nose, dried-lemon middle and tart, dry finish -- in a manner to suit its pedigree: from a champagne cart.

The target date for the suds to flow is April 15. Babin figures that "people might need a beer then": It's tax day.

-- Tom Sietsema

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