Chef Frederik de Pue is a busy man. While he no longer consults on the Smith Commons menu, you can find him splitting time between Table, his recently-opened French-inspired restaurant in Shaw, his company–42˚ Catering–and his newest venture, the European seafood concept Azur. If you’re not familiar with de Pue (and you certainly should be), you’ll most likely recognize Azur’s location–José Andrés’s former Café Atlántico space in Penn Quarter.
The space, as it turns out, is still fairly recognizable both inside and out, albeit a bit more thematic. After Azur’s opening later this month, you’ll greeted by a large mural of a jelly fish, shining and shimmering in the light, each table top equipped with various prints of sea life. The ground floor–reserved specifically for walk-ins–feels a bit more open than Atlantico; the stairwell leading to the space’s top two tiers has been pushed back, clearing an extra few feet for seating. Along one wall hang large circular mirrors, reminiscent of both portholes and air bubbles, though the restaurant’s focal feature is absolutely the stunning custom-made chandelier that hangs through the core of the building, once again reminding visitors of bubbles floating to the surface of the sea.
Heading up the stairs past the glass bubbles, guests may recognize Cafe Atlantico’s open kitchen; even this feels more spacious, swapping the original red tiles for crisp white paint. The top two floors–open to both reservations and walk-ins–feature seating next to the hanging art as well as more thematic installations, like the curtain illuminated by soft blue light.
Among variations on European seafood preparation and supply, the menu will change seasonally and include an extensive raw bar, just one of de Pue’s areas of expertise. Hailing from Belgium with years of experience working in some of Europe’s finest dining establishments (see Monte Carlo’s Le Louis XV or Sea Grill in Brussels), Frederik is using both modern and traditional seafood technique to craft a menu that emphasizes both quality and sustainability. The new spot is slated to open by the end of April, making it a perfect restaurant for a bite of seafood this spring and summer.
Stay tuned for more information on the best openings, recipes, D.C. food news and more in tomorrow’s SPRING/SUMMER 2013 FOOD GUIDE.