Washingtonians might be slurping oysters and ordering martinis by the pitcher as soon as Saturday at Eat the Rich, Derek Brown's newest project in Shaw.
Named for a Motörhead song, the 75-seat seafood restaurant and bar at 1839 Seventh St. NW. is a stunning space with rich gray walls and woodsy elements that evoke Mockingbird Hill, its sister ham-and-sherry bar a couple of doors down. The similarities, however, mostly end there.
Everything is bigger at Eat the Rich, from the 32-ounce, made-to-share pitchers of cocktails such as the Hollowed Apple (with Fidencio mezcal, agave-laced apple shrub and Hellfire bitters) and the Beer 'n Clam (house-made Clamato and beer; more on that later), to the entrees you'll find on the menu, including Chesapeake eel pie and pocketbook sea bream for two. Brown describes the restaurant, a partnership with Rappanhannock Oyster Bar's Travis Croxton, as what you might get "if the Passenger and Rapp Oyster Bar had a baby" -- that is, there will be cocktails and rock-and-roll, but instead of pork-cheek nachos, you'll find yourself supping on oysters dredged from nearby waters and sipping drinks selected to complement the food.
"In essence, drinks and cocktails are an extension of the kitchen," says Brown. "They're a culinary tradition. They go hand-in-hand. Being able to pair an oyster to a spirit is a really cool and interesting way to present that."
Here's what you should know:
When it comes to drinks, you can go highbrow or seriously lowbrow
On the bar menu designed by former Columbia Room bartender Rob Tinney is a martini pitcher with local, coriander-scented Green Hat gin; pitchers will run $18-$42 and will serve four. There's also a list of sparkling wines that could set you back more than $100 for a true Champagne. You'll also be able to choose from four lower-tannin reds and four slightly sweeter whites, such as muscadet, that have been selected to pair well with oysters.
"When you go out with a group of friends, you're always curious what the next person is drinking, like, 'Can I get a sip of that?' " says Tinney of the pitchers, which will feature blocked ice to keep them from becoming diluted. "We took that and ran with it. We thought this was a cool presentation." (It will, perhaps, also cut down on what can sometimes be a long wait for your next cocktail.)
But this is a casual restaurant at its core, so you'll also be able to throw back $6 oyster shooters, including the Bacon Torpedo: a Rappahannock oyster paired in a shot with bacon-infused Eastern Shore-crafted Sloop Betty Vodka and hot sauce. Or simply ask for a Shuck & Pluck: $4 buys you an oyster and mini can of Bud Light.
The menu is almost entirely seafood-focused, local and sustainable
Chef Julien Shapiro’s menu is a concise affair broken into “cold,” “hot” and “sweet” sections. Oysters, clams, scallops and other seafood dominate the hot and cold sections, including a clam chowder with the heavy metal-esque name of Chöwderhead.
Shapiro, who joined Eat the Rich after a stint as Bryan Voltaggio’s charcuterie specialist at Range, says he consulted with officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on what local fish to add to his menu. He was somewhat surprised to learn that the stocks of striped bass, the fish often deemed sustainable, are lower than expected. “They recommended that I use cobia, which is farmed inland in circulating tanks and do not pose a threat to wild cobia,” Shapiro e-mailed.
“The majority of the seafood we are going to use,” Shapiro says, “will come from the Chesapeake and Mid-Atlantic, with the exception of the Maine herring … and eventually anchovies, which we will salt cure.”
Even the chandelier is oyster-themed
If you find yourself seated at the long communal tables in the main dining room, look up. That's not some weird post-modern version of an Alexander Calder; it's a a weird post-modern lighting fixture featuring real oyster cages.
Vegetarian? You'll have better luck at the ham bar
While Mockingbird Hill offers a few meatless snacks, including the tasty bread and tomato, and honey-and-coffee-drizzled manchego cheese, Eat the Rich is laser-focused on seafood; even the broccoli is topped with anchovy sofrito. Our best advice? Consider eating ahead of time and saving Eat the Rich for the booze course.
Finally, there is Clamato you'll actually want to drink
The juice that flavors the Beer 'n Clam cocktail and the Chessie oyster shooter is a house-made version of the highly gross canned drink that pairs tomato juice with spices and clam juice. "Rob came up with an amazing recipe using clam juice, using tomatoes, using fresh ingredients," says Brown. "It's beautiful, actually. It's really delicious."