Former Restaurant Nora chef Benjamin Lambert’s last three cooking gigs found him in Middleburg (at the Goodstone Inn), Baltimore (Wit & Wisdom) and New York (Bread & Tulips). Now he’s back in the city, working for Ashok Bajaj as executive chef at the Indian entrepreneur’s tony 701 in Penn Quarter.


(Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

Lambert, 34, takes over from veteran chef Tony Conte, who was overseeing both the Oval Room, his home base near the White House, and 701 since the fall of 2012.

“Nothing is wrong with the food” at 701, says Bajaj, who owns eight restaurants around town, including Rasika and Ardeo + Bardeo. But “each restaurant requires its own personality and identity,” he adds.

The new addition to 701 is no stranger to Bajaj, who interviewed Lambert before he started cooking at Restaurant Nora. (“It wasn’t the right time” to join Bajaj’s company, says the chef, who says he’s now excited to make 701 his own.)

Lambert isn’t wasting any time putting his stamp on 701. By the end of next week, he hopes to roll out a completely fresh menu, including more finger food at the restaurant’s busy bar. A taste of what to expect: squash soup with ginger “fluff” and brown butter granola; roast chicken with cheddar gnocchi; and snapper with XO sauce, coconut, Thai basil and carrots.

The only ingredient his boss said had to stay: salmon, a favorite among 701 regulars.

701, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-393-0701.