The char of the grill is everywhere in Del Campo, Victor Albisu's forthcoming South American restaurant in Penn Quarter. After taking over the former PS 7's space, Del Campo, which nods to cuisine from all across the continent, will open April 22. It's the first full service restaurant from the former BLT Steak chef.
The restaurant pays tribute to Albisu's childhood. He first learned about food from the Argentine and Uruguayan butchers in his mother's Northern Virginia meat market. His new menu's empanadas are a tribute to his grandfather, a Cuban baker, and the ceviches are a nod to his Peruvian mother.
"You think of the grill as a linear type of thing -- in South America, it kinds of unites [the continent]," said Albisu. "It’s rustic and refined, contemporary and elegant ... It’s that juxtaposition that kind of unifies the restaurant."
The menu will start out with 12 choices of meat for the asado, or grill -- all served on traditional platters or wood boards at the center of the table, accompanied by chimichurri and salsas. The selections will rotate and will include unusual cuts and offal.
"I really feel like I worry less than most people do about having odder cuts of meat on the menu," he said. "I believe in the virtue of all cuts, and as long as you know how to cook them and dress them, I think they can all be delicious."
The ceviche selection will deviate from tradition, though, with grilled scallops, smoked uni and other types of grilled ceviche as well. While the dining room's menu will lean more towards the rustic, the bar menu will highlight South American street food. Albisu will be doing a version of the chivito sandwich that could give Fast Gourmet or TakEatEasy a run for their money. Included on his version of the Uruguayan mega-sandwich: Kobe sirloin, mortadella, hearts of palm and a fried egg.
"We’ll also have a grilled drink menu," Albisu said. Expect concoctions made from grilled lemons, limes, grapefruits and pineapples. Traditional pisco sours will highlight the drink menu, as well as cachaca, aguardiente, mate, and spiked Peruvian chicha, a corn drink.
After the main restaurant opens, Albisu plans to debut the reservations-only, prix-fixe Asado Bar, with nine seats in front of the restaurant's grills for patrons who want to watch the chefs work the flames as they prepare three set menus, including one that showcases South American cooking's fondness for grilled vegetables.
As for his other project, Falls Church's Taco Bamba, Albisu said he's still waiting out construction delays. While working on both restaurants at the same time has made for a challenging year so far, he says that he's confident both openings will go off without a hitch. "It’s not too far off," he said of Taco Bamba's debut, "But I've been wrong before."
Del Campo, 777 I St. NW. 202-289-7377. Opens April 22.