Mango Tree, CityCenterDC's glitzy Thai import, has a new chef in charge after four months. Former sous chef Adrian Salazar is taking over for opening-day chef de cuisine Paul Kennedy.
Salazar, 29, began reworking the menu two weeks ago. His new menu will debut on Monday.
Mango Tree general manager Robert Hall said that even in a short period of time, Salazar has already made a difference by giving the plating a "sexier" look and bringing on staff.
"The level of creativity and the attractiveness of the plating ... matters hugely to the Washington diner," Hall said, especially as he said he thinks diners used to suburban Thai restaurants are still coming around to the higher-end experience, and higher prices, that places such as Mango Tree offer.
Before joining the opening team of Mango Tree, Salazar served as a sous chef at Zaytinya. The former artist had worked in Vietnamese restaurants in the past, but other than a stage (a kind of unpaid culinary internship) at New York's Pok Pok, he'd not cooked much Thai. (His predecessor, Kennedy, started cooking Thai five years ago at Mango Tree's Middle East locations before the D.C. restaurant's opening.)
"It's mostly the complexities," Salazar said of what attracts him about Thai cuisine. "It's kind of like a wild ride."
The chef hopes to go to Thailand in June for two weeks for additional research and inspiration.
Kennedy said he preferred not to comment about his departure. "At the moment, I'm not too sure" what's next, he said, though staying in the area is a possibility.
Mango Tree, 929 H St. NW. 202-408-8100. www.mangotreedc.com. Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner 5 to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.