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all photos: Jeff Martin

It has been twenty years since Ashok Bajaj opened The Oval Room, the quintessential DC power dining spot, which also just happened to nurture one of the more creative, exciting menus in town, especially since Chef Tony Conte started manning the ship. It had been a successful 20 years but it was time for a little revamp. After all, the adventurous, interested DC dining crowd that has emerged as a key component to what supports Washington’s restaurant universe was not necessarily paying attention to the small miracles Conte was producing in the kitchen, maybe taken aback by the perceived stuffiness of the place.

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Now, a $1 million renovation later, both the youth and the power players of DC get their moment in the Oval Room’s dance card, so to speak. The bar has been expanded and both the cocktail menu (which reads like a Criterion collection summer fling come to life: Monika, Rosalie, Scarlett…) and the bar snacks options (Duck confit tartare tots, anyone?) seem almost designed to be conversation starters (and yes, for those wondering – instagramming IS encouraged, according to Washington Post) and the menu (still, thankfully, done by Conte) is brimming with flavorful sounding dishes like Indian Spiced Lamb with charred eggplant and arugula, charred jalapeno spaghetti and oysters with plums and rhubarb sauce. And yes, for Oval Room loyalists  – there is still a beet salad (there is ALWAYS a beet salad at The Oval room, and it is ALWAYS the best beet salad in town) and this version with kefir, wasabi and blackberry vinaigrette seems just as worthy as other must-try previous reiterations)

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And now, the interior matches the boldness of the menu. The renovation was designed by Martin Vahtra, who worked with Bajaj on Rasika West End and NoPa and the walls are covered in bold, statement art, the fixtures are gleaming and the whole place feels a little less white-cloth-y than before. Which, in 2014, we can all agree is a good thing. In short: the new Oval Room is still all the things some of us loved before, it is just ready to make some new friends too. New friends-line up.

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The new Oval Room officially opens today. More details and reservations: HERE.

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