Is that ... ?

Could it be ... ?

Ever since former Palena chef Frank Ruta was named to take over the kitchen at the Grill Room in Georgetown's Capella hotel, the question on most minds (okay, my mind) has been: Will he be serving the Palena burger?

Please recall the pleasures of the Palena cheeseburger: A single Angus beef patty laced with dry-aged steak, topped with truffled cheese and a thin layer of mayo, and served on a house-made bun that split the difference between brioche and a Parker House roll.

In an age where it's not unusual to see burgers topped with bacon, truffles, a fried egg, foie gras or a raft of condiments, Ruta's burger earned local and national acclaim for its carefully crafted simplicity, until Palena closed last year.

But an early glimpse of what Ruta's next burger creation will look like came this week during a preview of the chef's new menu at the Grill Room.

The burger immediately brought me back to Palena, both in terms of appearance and flavor. It all starts with the bun, which is still made in-house, and still carries the delicate exterior and pillowy interior the original burger was known for.

The meat carried a deep, earthy smokiness, as if the patty had spent time in a smoker before being cooked to a perfect medium-rare. Ruta is still tinkering with the final recipe, which varies slightly from the Palena formula, he says, but it starts with house-ground, dry-aged Angus beef.

The Grill Room Burger ($18-$21) will appear on the lunch menu at the Grill Room and on the bar menu at the Capella hotel's Rye Bar beginning February 28.

Capella Hotel, 1050 31st St. NW. 202-617-2424. www.thegrillroomdc.com