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I'm curious to hear peoples' takes on the Corcoran Gallery of Art and its closure. Above all else, I think that last year's dissolution of the Corcoran is the single-biggest loss to hit Washington, DC since ... when? The College of Art and Design, the $200 million Beaux Arts Building, and $50 million in cash went to George Washington University - does anyone have a well-written backstory as to *why* this already-rich college got such an enormous windfall? The 17,000 artworks, valued at $2 billion, were given to the National Gallery of Art. While I think that's wonderful, it also justifies a new building - are there any plans to either buy or construct one? The Corcoran collection could be a huge draw for whatever location they decide to put it in - from Feb 7, 2015 through May 3, 2015, three galleries in the NGA West Building were jam-packed with Corcoran treasures, and while this was certainly a treat for NGA visitors, something must be done in the long term in order to give these works of art their proper due. How much would something like this mean, for example, to Prince George's County? It would certainly lure me and my wallet out that way.
It was announced yesterday that the Renwick Gallery will reopen after an extensive $30 million renovation on November 13, 2015. This is a lovely little art museum, part of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum, housing the craft and decorative arts collection. I didn't realize that the Renwick was the first American building specifically designed and built to showcase art - originally to display the art collection of William Corcoran. Despite its proximity to the White House, the Renwick is rarely crowded. The reopening exhibition will be Wonder, featuring nine contemporary artists who are creating site specific installations.
I've imbibed at the W Hotel several times now, so I'll lay out the layout. . . I'll post later on the menu/off-menu experiences I've had. But this place is a complicated venue to navigate. Lobby Bar The lobby is a perfectly fine place to relax. The bar itself has about 10 stools, and always has a spectacular floral arrangement reaching 14 feet upwards. Table service is comfortable and leisurely. Choose from an assortment of games (chess, checkers, etc.) to pass the time as you sip cocktails and/or munch on snacks. Pick a table near the windows, and away from the hallway, to avoid the long lines to the elevator that can hover over you. I.E. If you're headed to the rooftop, there will be AT LEAST one line to the elevator here in the lobby. Only 7 may fit into the elevator (and even then the hopper has asked folks to step off if the weight limit has been reached), so inevitably you'll wait to get upstairs. Rooftop Bars Once on the rooftop, you instantly understand why all of those lines downstairs are necessary. Few views (if any) in DC surpass those from the W's rooftop, and the upstairs would be a complete zoo if there wasn't some sort of crowd control. As it is, I have yet to feel claustrophobic upstairs. The tables are spaced nicely (remember the horrific seating of the Hotel Washington?). The sun sets just over the White House, and I don't tire of watching Washington's skyline at night. This rooftop is the W's timeless competitive advantage over any other club or restaurant in the city. There are two rooftop bars: a small one (no seating) at the corner of the building, and a shotgun one that seats about 10 at the other end. As you stand in the rooftop corner, the Washington Monument dares you to reach out and touch it. The shotgun bar runs parallel to the Treasury Building, and may be the most crowded area in the W Hotel. POV Lounge Now we're cooking with gas. This indoor lounge on the rooftop is just gaudy sick. Floor to ceiling windows allow for a panoramic view of the south, hard to believe that the Hotel Washington had it bricked up for years before. Most of the tables are reservation only. On the weekends a live jazz band adds to the ambiance. The room's centerpiece is the "sushi bar", styled after those of high-end Japanese restaurants. Here the bartenders shake, stir and muddle behind the elevated bar in the dim light. Seating consists of 12 10 zebra-striped armchairs, at a bar that doubles as a lamp (a very bright one) by nightfall. It's a bit awkward to have the bartenders tower over you, albeit from several feet back, but they reward your curious interest with exploratory suggestions. When sitting so low, it is downright impossible to see all the bottles behind this bar, and the menu tells precious little of this shop's range of inventory. Still, there are PLENTY of cool toys here, including a copper ice sphere mold (one of 7 kinds of ice). If the W Hotel is a sea of people-watching, power-mingling, vodka-drinking, weekend-clubbing folly, the sushi bar is an island of cocktail-crafting giddiness. Lines and Access Making a reservation is definitely the safest way to go. I swung by last Sunday at 3:30pm only to be told that rooftop access was closed to walk-ins. During the weekdays, I get upstairs solo no problem. On Friday and Saturday nights, lines form outside for those without reservations ("TWRs"). Once inside the lobby, there is another line for TWRs to get to the rooftop. Finally, there is a line for the one rooftop elevator that most everyone must suffer. An annoying production, but IMO necessary, as observed above. Atmosphere Although there is decent food, a restaurant it is not. Definitely a bar. More than that, it's one of those "THE place to be" bars. The clientele is an odd mix of: tourists, politicians, celebrities, professionals, and business meetings. Didn't see too many interns or cocktail enthusiasts. It's generally an older crowd that is less interested in innovation, and more apt to opt for wine or beer (only available bottled). It's generally a crowd who has never heard of Sasha Petraske. On the surface, a place that purports to cater to the sophisticated, but mainly attracts the pretentious (Yours Truly included in his weaker moments). But, the staff is friendly enough to chat with me if I can't get a conversation going with a random customer. Closing Thoughts I'm not a big fan of the speakeasy model, nor any model that requires a complicated access protocol. I don't do reservations, Open Table, or anything past calling to make sure a restaurant is open that day, or that late. That said, there is a payoff at POV if you can bear jumping thru its hoops. I'll save my thoughts of the menu for a later time (bottom line: I like the enthusiasm and often the execution), but thought I'd kick off this thread.