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Cha - Ta.


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I was walking past the Donovan House on my way to work earlier this week when I peaked into to one of the previously covered windows to see a sleek looking, dark wood room with a long bar that looked close to completion. I saw a friend from college who I hadn't seen for years behind the bar and waved for him to come outside. Turns out he was one of the project managers on site to do the construction for a "Asian-fusion themed restaurant featuring Todd English as Executive Chef". I did my best not to roll my eyes when he told me this and asked when it was going to be open. He told me that the original plan was to open doors by this Friday, but that it looked like management was going to hold off the opening to the public until after the inauguration, hosting a couple private parties in the meantime. While "Todd English Asian-fusion" inspires very little confidence in me, I really liked what I saw of the surprisingly large interior when taken inside. It's following what appears to be the norm now in DC for trendy spots, with lots of dark wood and chrome and very dim lighting. I will more than likely be in for a drink with my friend whenever it does open, holding out hope that the food will surprise me and the bar will be a good spot in very close proximity to my house. Anyone hear anything else about this project? I couldn't find anything when I did a Google search.

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I posted on DCist... According to Washington.org, "The menu will feature traditional classics, modern Asian favorites, a full sushi bar and a creative noodle menu. The sleek dining room, designed by the New York based Studio Gaia, showcases the dramatic bar. Cha, which is the Chinese word for tea, will also boast a tea house, offering an extensive selection of artisan loose leaf teas and tea based cocktails."

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The sleek dining room, designed by the New York based Studio Gaia, showcases the dramatic bar. Cha, which is the Chinese word for tea, will also boast a tea house, offering an extensive selection of artisan loose leaf teas and tea based cocktails."
A friend and I stopped in tonight, after seeing two sushi chefs working along side an somewhat-occupied bar -- curiosity killed the cat, as they say. They don't expect to offer a full menu until three weeks from now, but there is a bar menu offering sushi/sashimi items. According to the bartender, "a company paid them to open during inauguration and it didn't make sense not to stay open." I'm not quite sure what that meant.

I think Studio Gaia must have been channeling the Opium dens of the tea houses, because the front area was pretty pitch black. Morticia-esque or heck, even mortuary-Six-Feet-Under feel to the place. In the back of the restaurant, they had the popular lighting through the wall with soft-circular seating, which well, it felt like an opium pad. There was definitely no zen to this teahouse.

There is a small, probably 6 seater to the sushi bar next to the full bar; several tables in the front, and more seating in the back. The bar stools are made to mimic the old tea house wooden stools, and well, they are not kind to you if you have a bad back or sensitive seats. The bathroom translations were just funny, and even funnier when a gentlemen walked into the ladies, misreading both the empress/emperor pictures.

Back to the food & service. The bartender was nice, maybe from CoCo Sala, as he asked us if he's seen us there before. We split a Yellowtail with diced cucumber and jalapeno peppers plate for $13, which came with, I think, 6 pieces of sashimi, topped with really diced-marinated cucumbers, greens, and jalapeno surrounding an awkwardly placed kale/cabbage centerpiece. The slices were too oblong to be picked up with the chopsticks offered, and it made for awkward maneuverings to even get the piece with its accessories in my mouth. The fish tasted alright. No pop, not even with the extras.

Wine by the glass ran from $10 and up, if I recalled right. The feeling between the two of us was that it was a bit on the pricey side for the food and drinks. Although there were other beers on tap, it was strange to see Sapporo, Kirin, and Stella Artois all lined-up in a row. The only upside was the addicting bowl of wasabi peas at the bar. It'll be really interesting on the real opening, I think.

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The sushi rolls start at $10 for spicy rolls. Absurd.
Friday's WBJ noted that Cha's sushi menu is intended [?priced] for hotel guests.
Struggling With English ยป Construction delays are plaguing celebrity chef Todd English's Cha restaurant, set to open in the Donovan House hotel at D.C.'s Logan Circle.

The restaurant was expected to open in late January, but there is no targeted opening date at this point, says English's marketing director, Jordin Greene. "We're still looking at some time this spring."

The bar is open and serving a limited sushi menu for hotel guests. English is also behind D.C. institution Olives.

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Zagat Buzz is reporting that Todd English is out at Cha, being replaced by Susur Lee, who runs the restaurant Shang in a sister NYC hotel.

http://www.zagat.com/Blog/Detail.aspx?SNP=...amp;BLGID=19916

The most interesting part of this article is the mention of a rooftop dining area at the Donovan House. That'll be an extraordinary, unencumbered view of the city and should be a great spot to get drinks this summer.

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And what is it with D.C. and these god-awful "pan-Asian" places? Blecch. That's like going to a restaurant that specializes in wienerschnitzel and tacos.

Yeah, I'm actually getting tired of this trend. Pad Thai, King Pao Chicken and poorly executed sushi on the same menu is an absurd trend. Make it stop.

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