Image: Mushrooms sprouting under duck.
Last Updated: June 2022
Current Status: Open for dine-in, with an expansive lounge/bar area for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Estuary rolls like the incoming tide through the third floor of the Conrad hotel on the north side of City Center with the tables spread out beyond the dining room and past the bar. The city sets a background through dramatic windows that wrap around the space. Coming out of Covid restrictions, a new team in the kitchen took over. They have retained the emphasis on local, Mid-Atlantic cuisine of the Chesapeake Bay region (from which the name Estuary comes).
Chef Ria Montes, who steps in for the Voltaggio brothers (they departed prior to re-opening), previously worked at the shrine-like homage to the cuisine A Rake’s Progress. The dishes are well-composed and done well. It nods to the hotel clientele with many standards like oysters, or a rib-eye with duck-fried potatoes, and a burger. But it also retains some of the inventiveness that the Voltaggio brothers instilled in the menu when they opened the restaurant in 2019, with dishes like a tea-brined pork loin, or a crusted lamb loin with Virginia peanuts. Chef Montes also goes beyond the New American tradition with dishes like crispy pig ears with bibb lettuce and soft shell crabs with Singapore chili sauce.
Perhaps it is self-deception, but it seems that the wine list has gotten better and more interesting since the first incarnation. The by-the-glass options are more diverse. The large bar still serves a steady stream of cocktails for those hanging out post-conference or pre-dinner. The spread-out space and high ceilings create a low din. It also can create some serving hiccups. But this is an adult-friendly space to unwind, so have another drink and give the kitchen and staff a few extra minutes to sort it out.
Washingtonian: Original Preview
EaterDC: Preview of re-opened spot.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: December 2019
This is a serious restaurant that should be taken seriously. The PR-hype machine may fool you into thinking the new Brothers Voltaggio place is just a nice hotel spot with a celebrity-chef stamp to draw crowds. Estuary is aiming for something bigger than that. The dishes range from well-executed versions of the familiarly pleasing (crab salad on brioche roll), to the funky (lamb “pastrami”), to the sublime (Peruvian-inspired ceviche). The ingredients in the dishes are less in harmony and more in exciting tension. Far from cashing in on celebrity, the brothers seem to be staking their reputation by doing complex, compelling cooking that draws on a Chesapeake-focused palette. It had a rolling, soft opening, and, as of April 9, it is officially open. There are still hiccups – a lost order, the wine list arriving for review after the first course is served. These probably reflect the logistics of serving a huge space and should be worked out soon. Setting that aside, the service is smooth and friendly – with talent poached from some other high-end spots around town. The wine list needs filling out, it could benefit from some balance – both price points and styles. The reds by the glass start at Oregon Pinot and quickly goes to big Malbecs and Cabernets, without much that is less powerful. There are some good finds at affordable prices, but it might be just above a $1500 bottle. The space is immense, with a long, curving seating areas, both in the restaurant and bar, set against massive windows. The grandeur matches the ambitions of the kitchen. This could have easily been a steakhouse. It is our luck it is something altogether different. This is the second new place I’ve tried this year that I would not be surprised to see Michelin recognize (the other was Rooster & Owl). I imagine this place will evolve. It will be exciting to track its progress.
Rating: Worth Paying for Cab
Cuisine: New or Old American
Neighborhood: Chinatown/City Center
Address: 950 New York Ave NW Washington, DC 20001 (on third floor)