CLOTHES ENCOUNTERS: You know things are changing along the U Street corridor in Washington when restaurants start implementing dress codes.
From my perch at the just-opened Tabaq Bistro (1336 U St. NW; 202-265-0965), I recently watched as half a dozen would-be patrons were turned away at the door for not dressing the part of the desired Tabaq customer. Their fashion violation? The arrivals were wearing shorts or sneakers or both. (Never mind that one of the gentlemen politely explaining the rules was wearing faded jeans.)
Some of the faces and some of the flavors at Tabaq might be familiar. Brothers Melih and Omer Buyukbayrak co-owned Meze (2437 18th St. NW; 202-797-0017) in Adams Morgan before they sold their interest in the Turkish restaurant and began work on renovating the building that now houses their three-story retreat.
"It's been a long journey," says Omer Buyukbayrak, who adds that he and his siblings, including brother Jamal, spent a year and close to $4 million readying the site. Tabaq consists of an underground lounge arranged with low stools; a street level "Red Room" that fairly pulses with the color; and, up one flight of stairs, a glass-enclosed terrace with a retractable roof -- and a 360-degree view of the city.
The owners tapped Daniel Labonne, a longtime friend, to execute their menu. Labonne previously cooked at the African-themed Wazuri (now Straits of Malaya) in Dupont Circle. While Tabaq's menu acknowledges Turkey with borek (filled pastries) and manti (dumplings), it also embraces representative tastes of Greece, Lebanon and Morocco. One highlight among several: mussels stuffed with herbs and rice and gilded with avgolemono, a lemony egg sauce.
Tabaq is a spin on the Turkish word for plate, tabak. The name is also a hint of what to expect: a spread of more than 40 snack-size plates.
Get dressed, and dig in.