Nancy Hart, general manager of 8407 Kitchen Bar in Silver Spring, had hoped her new chef would be able to work behind the scenes without media detection and public expectations, but her plan was spoiled by that ubiquitous D.C. character: the gossip.
“Ed just seemed to be the guy for the job,” Hart said. “He understood the concept, he was comfortable with the concept.”
The 8407 concept, Witt argues, is not so far removed from the more formal aims of 701, which is part of Ashok Bajaj’s ever-expanding portfolio of restaurants. Despite its suburban location and more neighborhood vibe, 8407 focuses on seasonal American menus with ingredients sourced from local farmers. The new chef believes many of the dishes he created for 701 would fit comfortably in 8407’s price range.
But regardless, Witt says, neighborhood dining just suits his personal tastes. “I’ve always been someone who wants to sit and eat without a tablecloth,” says the upstate New York native who grew up in Damascus. Witt, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, had worked in restaurants in San Francisco and New York before moving to Washington in 2010 to serve, briefly, as executive chef at the now-shuttered Morso in Georgetown.
Hart doesn’t expect Witt, 39, to roll out his own menu until at least a month from now. The general manager plans to keep the same multiple menu format, which balances a more informal list of sandwiches, salads and snacks with a dinner menu of chef-driven appetizers and main plates. Hart wasn’t sure yet whether Witt would continue Matamoros’s charcuterie program, but she does want to expand the menu of sandwiches and other mid-range plates.
Until Witt does debut his own menu, he plans to whet diners’ appetites with a diet of specials, like his current one: pan-roasted red grouper with celery root puree, finished with tarragon brown butter, sauteed mushrooms, pickled kumquat and fennel, and a little cardamom and jalapeno. He garnishes the dish with what he calls a “cardamom crumble.”
Sounds like a pretty ambitious neighborhood restaurant to me.