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Rumor: Watergate Negotiating With Restaurateur


Robert Rymarz
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Hell, just about anything would be more exciting than what's there now.

The current Washingtonian has an excellent article by Robert Shoffner about "old" Washington. There's also an article about the building and early days of the Watergate. I thought I was the only one who remembered all that stuff........ :lol:

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I spoke with a very high ranking executive of the company that is developing the watergate condos a few nights ago and they are in negotiations to bring in a world class chef and new restaurant to the development. Take that for what it is worth, but there is some truth to the rumor.

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I spoke with a very high ranking executive of the company that is developing the watergate condos a few nights ago and they are in negotiations to bring in a world class chef and new restaurant to the development.  Take that for what it is worth, but there is some truth to the rumor.

That's well and good, but there are things wrong with the Watergate that are un-fixable. I worked for Jean-Louis throughout the 80's in that nasty little basement space. It's amazing what we were able to pull off there.

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I have no idea if the Bouchon rumor is true or not. However, I've seen the kitchens* at Per Se and I've heard Slater's rants about Watergate. They are completely different worlds.

*There are three: a main kitchen; a completely seperate kitchen for the private dining room; and a pastry kitchen which will also supply the new Bouchon bakery downstairs.

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Hi, I'm the one who started that rumor on Food Musings. I noticed lots of traffic to my site from this thread, so I figured I'd stop by with my two cents.

I heard it last week from a guy who is involved in the project. But it wasn't a "this might happen" kind of statement, so I take it they're either deep into negotiations (with no assurance of whether it'll happen for sure) or it's a done deal.

I too would think it would be another Bouchon but, after reading about the Watergate wanting a high-end restaurant, maybe that's not the case. With Eric Ziebold, a Keller alumnus, in the area at the Mandarin's CityZen (and garnering lots of buzz, though those of you who live in/near DC can probably attest to that better than me) maybe Keller was feeling a little competitive?

Edited by catherinenca
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Hi, I'm the one who started that rumor on Food Musings. I noticed lots of traffic to my site from this thread, so I figured I'd stop by with my two cents.

I heard it last week from a guy who works at an architecture firm that is somehow involved in the project -- not sure if they're in touch with the Watergate, or Keller, or both. But it wasn't a "this might happen" kind of statement, so I take it they're either deep into negotiations (with no assurance of whether it'll happen for sure) or it's a done deal.

I too would think it would be another Bouchon but, after reading about the Watergate wanting a high-end restaurant, maybe that's not the case. With Eric Ziebold, a Keller alumnus, in the area at the Mandarin's CityZen (and garnering lots of buzz, though those of you who live in/near DC can probably attest to that better than me) maybe Keller was feeling a little competitive?

Welcome... I think a Keller priced restaurant could do well in DC with the technology/government contract/lobbying money floating around the area... But for the most part (there are exceptions like Mini-Bar, CityZen et al) the high end food around here is very steak and potato...
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Welcome... I think a Keller priced restaurant could do well in DC with the technology/government contract/lobbying money floating around the area... But for the most part (there are exceptions like Mini-Bar, CityZen et al) the high end food around here is very steak and potato...

Other non-steak and potato exceptions worth noting: Citronelle, Palena, Restaurant Eve, Maestro, 2941...anyone else care to chime in?
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i havent been to bouchon (in vegas or napa); but i havent heard a bad thing about either one; and the chefs at each one have spent considerable amounts of time in kellers kitchens before becoming chefs at the bouchon.

soomething tells me you can't compare olives or zengo to bouchon....those two original restaurants probably couldnt hold a candle to kellers spin-offs.

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Other non-steak and potato exceptions worth noting: Citronelle, Palena, Restaurant Eve, Maestro, 2941...anyone else care to chime in?

I was thinking the same thing. How about Marcel's, Tosca, Vidalia, Le Paradou(love it or hate it), and how could we forget Cordouroy. Or you can even go a little old school and mention L'Auberge Chez François. Yup, nothing but steak and potatoes here.

Edited to add:

How could I have forgotten Makoto.

Edited by Sthitch
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I would hope you have something more than this backing up your disdain for Bouchon (or is it just the Vegas location?). Just because a guy used to work at Neyla doesn't make Bouchon Neyla, does it?

Been to Bouchon (Vegas) twice, and can't wait to go back -- the waitstaff is stellar, the food spot on and offered at a much fairer price than other Vegas "celebrity chef" establishments, and the waiters wear tablecloths as aprons. How cute is that?

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I was thinking the same thing.  How about Marcel's, Tosca, Vidalia, Le Paradou(love it or hate it), and how could we forget Cordouroy.  Or you can even go a little old school and mention L'Auberge Chez François.  Yup, nothing but steak and potatoes here.

Edited to add:

How could I have forgotten Makoto.

:lol: I am lame... I was trying to make a point... just not sure how to make it, has something to do with the Watergate, politics and money...
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$35 steak frites and $40 house wines? Lobbyists and trendoids booking tables weeks in advance and cloggin up my late night booze and gratinee binges? TK blowing into town for the Grand Opening and then disappearing back to Cali and NYC where he does his real worK? I'd rather stay home with the cookbook and see something else go into that space.

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$35 steak frites and $40 house wines?  Lobbyists and trendoids booking tables weeks in advance and cloggin up my late night booze and gratinee binges?

Having never been to Bouchon, I looked at their online menu to get an idea of what is served and at what prices. Looks good to me, and at $28.50 the steak frites--the most expensive item on the menu--is less than a comparable $31 offering at Bis.

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We've been to Bouchon in Napa Valley twice -- the first time because it was the only place open past 11pm in Yountville and the second because the food and service were awesome. Based upon the reports of the Vegas clone, it sounds like they've successfully replicated a very good restaurant. If we're going to get another McRestaurant, then this would be one of the better choices.

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Hi, I'm the one who started that rumor on Food Musings. I noticed lots of traffic to my site from this thread, so I figured I'd stop by with my two cents.

I heard it last week from a guy who is involved in the project. But it wasn't a "this might happen" kind of statement, so I take it they're either deep into negotiations (with no assurance of whether it'll happen for sure) or it's a done deal.

I too would think it would be another Bouchon but, after reading about the Watergate wanting a high-end restaurant, maybe that's not the case. With Eric Ziebold, a Keller alumnus, in the area at the Mandarin's CityZen (and garnering lots of buzz, though those of you who live in/near DC can probably attest to that better than me) maybe Keller was feeling a little competitive?

UPDATE: Talked to my friend again today and it is happening. As I hear more, I'll share more. Don't know what kind of restaurant but the impression I get is that it is VERY high end, which means I no longer suspect a 3rd Bouchon.

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Could Ziebold-who wore a French Laundry chef's jacket (chef de cuisine) at CityZen-eventually leave there for a Per Se level Keller intro in D. C.? Especially near where Jean Louis brought Washington onto the national stage.

Hmm..........

Just speculating....

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to add fuel to this oh so delightful fire...i have inside info that keller was eating at cityzen just last week....

and another tasty tid-bit; i heard ziebold was already fed up with working in a hotel situation where getting toner for his printer is a headache; so imagine how fed up he is when trying to get a new purveyor.

screw this mcrestaurant crap; lets give keller his due. i have heard from EVERY person that i have talked to that has eaten at both per se and the laundry, that per se was better. i have heard from EVERY person i know that has eaten at either bouchon, thatr it was great. so; if keller can grow with people that he can trust and have his standards...let keller grow...especially here in DC.

Edited by Jonathan
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I just had a long conversation with Eric Ziebold. In summary, Eric has an enormous respect for Thomas Keller, for his philosophy, and for what he's trying to do. If Keller were to come into town, either in a bistro or fine-dining capacity, Eric would be proud to be a part of it in some form or another. I like what I heard from Eric tonight, not in terms of "something is necessarily going to happen," but in terms of an apprentice (if you can call a master chef such as Ziebold an "apprentice") having respect for his teacher. Will anything come of this? I can't say. But Eric Ziebold has a genuine affection for Thomas Keller, that is certain.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I just had a long conversation with Eric Ziebold.  In summary, Eric has an enormous respect for Thomas Keller, for his philosophy, and for what he's trying to do.  If Keller were to come into town, either in a bistro or fine-dining capacity, Eric would be proud to be a part of it in some form or another.  I like what I heard from Eric tonight, not in terms of "something is necessarily going to happen," but in terms of an apprentice (if you can call a master chef such as Ziebold an "apprentice") having respect for his teacher.  Will anything come of this?  I can't say.  But Eric Ziebold has a genuine affection for Thomas Keller, that is certain.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I have no doubt the feeling is mutual because Thomas was once quoted saying Ziebold's technique was flawless. Pretty high praise from a man who often says nothing can ever be perfect.

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i have heard from EVERY person that i have talked to that has eaten at both per se and the laundry, that per se was better.

I'm in that camp.

One of the things I thought was impressive was that even though the cooking was similar at both, the feel was so different that it did not feel like a copy of the same restaurant. French Laundry feels like an organic part of the Napa Valley and Per Se feels very much like midtown Manhattan (at least once you pass through its doors, leaving the mall behind you). I hope that, if this is true, that the DC version has its own DC-feel, different from the other two.

I also think this will only serve to help continue to raise the bar for the best restaurants in town and bring the rest of the scene up along with it. But that can only happen if Keller isn't spreading himself too thin. He obviously works well with Jonathan Benno in New York and it seems like a partnership, with Keller staying intimately involved. I would hope that he could find another partner-chef here that could keep up the standards.

Edited by bilrus
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The door?  Or is it the window?  I love that little trick.  It's like an architectural preview of the cooking.

I HATE that trick. The visitor is led to make the wrong decision at their very first moment experiencing the place. What's the point? To show that Per Se is smarter than you? Having something concealed is one thing; deliberately leading a diner down the wrong path (of experience, not just perception) is another. I think there's a mucch better version of a similar experience at Alinea, where the wall at the end of the entry hall slides open as the visitor approaches. It makes the visitor feel unsure, but never foolish.

Sorry, big pet peeve.

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FWIW, my friend recently confirmed that the chef was identified only vis-a-vis "his other restaurant, the French Laundry." If you read between the lines, you could parse out reasonable doubt that Mr. Keller himself is involved. Perhaps it's someone else who works/worked there e.g. a chef de cuisine?

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Breaking News...I met with Christophe Poteaux, the Executive Chef of Aquarelle yesterday (Saturday, Oct. 29th) during one of TasteDC's Chocolate Classes, and he confirmed....that although it's possible Keller is looking to open a restaurant like Bouchon at the Watergate, there were some serious issues to contend with which would slow the process down to at least 3 or 4 years:

1)Aquarelle has a contract to operate the restaurant portion of the Watergate until the end of 2006 (Christophe seemed to suggest it would be part of the Aquarelle location in some way, that is the hotel's main kitchen),

2)Currently, there's a lawsuit from neighboring coop owners to stop the Watergate's Hotel from turning into a condominium...the Keller restaurant can only occur once the new building owners take over the building and begin the condo conversion...this means that the building would be under renovation/construction for some time..

3)Having said all that, the opening of a Keller operation would most likely be 2008/2009...so even if the rumor is true, we have plenty of time to eat at other fine dining establishments in DC!

So rumor or not, it has a LONG way to go...

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The latest word from the inside is that the tentative deal is officially dead. As you probably already have read, Keller does have some new plans up his sleeve from a new butcher shop to a new burger/pizza/sushi joint (TBD), they just all happen to be located near TFL.

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The latest word from the inside is that the tentative deal is officially dead.

Interesting coincidence then, that Monument Realty took out a sizable ad in last Sunday's New York Times, with copy that read
Soon to be transformed, The Watergate will offer exceptional new waterfront residences to Washington.  With a new signature restaurant and internationally renowned spa and health club, the refashioning of The Watergate will only add to its prestige.
I hope they weren't talking about the Signatures restaurant that I'm thinking about. <_<
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