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FIRST LOOK: Bryan Voltaggio’s RANGE
December 4, 2012 | 10:30AM

all photos: Shauna Alexander

The second you walk into Bryan Voltaggio’s brand new emporium (there is really no other term to use here, trust us) RANGE, one word comes to mind: IMPRESSIVE. The restaurant, Voltaggio’s first in DC proper, which will officially open on December 18th is a sprawling/14,500 square foot/seven kitchen/300 seater/100+ menu item beast which seems poised to redefine your dining experience in the District. Now, we know this is a lofty statement, but it is matched with a lofty ambition, a strong concept and a great team, so … our bets are on success.

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The idea, which may remind you of a more upscale concept of, say, Eataly (which, as we know, DC has been chomping at the bit to get for a year now) involves seven distinct kitchens: PASTA, RAW BAR, BAKERY, WOOD FIRED HEARTH, ROTISSERIE, CHARCUTERIE and DESSERT AND CANDY, all overseen by Voltaggio and Chef De Cuisine Matt Hill (who opened Charlie Palmer’s with Voltaggio back in 2003), with the help of pastry chef John Miele (who oversees all of VOLT family restaurant dessert programs as well). All the kitchens are exposed and as one of the 300 potential visitors, you, the eater, get a great view and a chance to interact with the food-in-progress. This choice is especially interesting since not only is this a massive undertaking, it also involves an almost staggering level of confidence from Voltaggio’s team, because you could be ordering anything from any of the kitchens, at any point in time, which, with the aforementioned 100+ menu items, should be a kitchen coordination dance worth seeing. Still, at the press preview, the team was nothing but smiles and all the food was, well, VERY delicious.

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RANGE, furthermore, is equipped to take care of everything and each answer to any of our questions was a resounding YES: yes, they do all the baking in the restaurant; yes, the butchering happens on site; yes, foie gras and scrapple are on the menu next to each other; yes, all the seafood is local and brought in daily; yes, there is plenty of alternative meat cuts on the menu (offals, head cheese, veal hearts, a whole rabbit and more); yes, it is very meat-centric but there are plenty of amazing sounding vegetable dishes too (rotisserie savoy cabbages, creamed swiss chard, cauliflower with golden raisins and so on); yes, yes, yes. The menu is designed to pick and choose across categories, and the final bill, according to Voltaggio’s recent Washington Post interview, should be somewhere in the $50-$60 area per person.

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Some of the stand-out dishes we had a pleasure of tasting were the insanely creamy ricotta ravioli with a classic braised meat ragu as well as the kimchi linguini with uni and bay scallops (in general, the PASTA kitchen seemed to be knocking it out of the park), the yellow fin tuna with a simple soy and lime dressing, stone crabs that seemed to fall out of the shells and pretty much any cut of beef that found their way to our plate.

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Rounding out the experience: desserts and drinks, naturally. Voltaggio pinged, Owen Thomson (previously in charge of the whole Jose Andres/ThinkFood Group restaurant beverages, acting president of the DC Craft Bartenders Guild and BYT Drink Diary Alum) as the beverage director, and Keith Goldston as the sommelier. The cocktail menu is extensive: 16 original creations (the Antique Dose seeming to be a favorite at our table: rye, strega and barolo chinato coming together as a lighter, less sweet Old Fashioned), plus three punches meant for sharing and a selection of sodas (and yes, they make those in house too). Also, chartreuse ON TAP, fully jumping on the “liquors on tap” trend.

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There is also a nice wines-by-the-glass selection, ranging from $8-18 price point wise, and offering tastes both local (like the Barboursville Pinot Grigio) and eclectic (like the Patagonia’s Chacra Pinot), further driving home the point that you will NEVER be bored at RANGE. Ever.

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And the desserts? In lieu of saying anything, let us just show you this picture:

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If all of this makes you want to not walk but run to Chevy Chase for a taste-the good news is, the restaurant is now officially accepting reservations for December 18th and onward (the pop-up preview weekend from the 15th-17th seems fully booked)

And now, enjoy some more photos:

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