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Annabelle - The Return of Chef Frank Ruta in the Former Nora Space - An Ashok Bajaj Restaurant


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Well, he's carefully weighing options, and open to hearing more, with the idea that he's looking for something that will have longer term successes, and a place to build relationships. Many people have reminisced about Palena, and I think he'd like to work towards achieving and earning that status ... for both employee and guest.
 
Frank is actively seeking work, as well as talking to potential employers already - if you're a restaurateur, you should contact him (through me, if you'd like).
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On 4/23/2019 at 2:06 PM, DPop said:

I can't understand why the landlord wouldn't be up for that idea, it would have to be better than the $0 they have collected for that space since Palena closed 6 or 7 years ago....

I think it was 5 years ago to the day.  All of my memories from that day are memories I wrote of all of the many, many times I dined and felt at home at Palena.

I'm so hoping Frank finds the next thing soon - I am in serious withdrawal.

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On 5/8/2019 at 12:19 PM, mtureck said:

In Tom Sietsema's chat this morning, he said that Frank Ruta just signed on with Ashok Bajaj to work at one of his restaurants. Haven't decided which yet. 

I read that too. Looking forward to having his food again as soon as he's set up and ready to go!

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On 7/18/2019 at 11:47 PM, DonRocks said:

Frank is quietly (and happily) working with Ashok.

Yeah I figured - I was just wondering if there was any more news on exactly what that was evolving in to. Really looking forward to having his food again.

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1 hour ago, ktmoomau said:

Well that will be an interesting one to follow- it doesn't seem to be narrowly tailored enough to me, plus given he was terminated, but who knows...

Non-competes are horrible, horrible things and should be made completely illegal.  I wish him the best of luck.  No clue on the chance of success in DC, but under MD law, being fired vs. quitting isn't relevant to the suit.

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I don't have a dog in this fight, but that's not going to prevent me from shooting my mouth off! 

I've never eaten Ruta's food (I tragically missed the whole Palena thing somehow) and I've never eaten at Mirabelle, but this lawsuit seems so petty, vindictive, mean spirited and Trumpian, that I see no reason to ever go to Mirabelle or any of Hakan Ilhan's restaurants.  My little protest-of-one is not going to be felt, especially since I've never been a customer of any of Ilhan's places, but I'm not going to give my money to places that I disagree with politically or ones that are run by jerks.

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34 minutes ago, Bart said:

this lawsuit seems so petty, vindictive, mean spirited and Trumpian, that I see no reason to ever go to Mirabelle or any of Hakan Ilhan's restaurants.  My little protest-of-one is not going to be felt, especially since I've never been a customer of any of Ilhan's places, but I'm not going to give my money to places that I disagree with politically or ones that are run by jerks.

You have no idea what Ilhan's political leaning is.  You are merely speculating and comparing him to Trump for no reason.  Are comparisons to Trump the new Godwin's law?  

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I would imagine, from an HR perspective, it would be pretty challenging to enforce the non-compete based on the broad generalities (10 miles is relatively significant in this case) making it somewhat easy to argue that it would prevent Frank from earning a living in a meaningful way.  Plus, based on the way it appeared, the termination on the front end likely could be viewed as voiding that non-compete unless there was some severance agreement also baked in.

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3 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

You have no idea what Ilhan's political leaning is.  You are merely speculating and comparing him to Trump for no reason.  Are comparisons to Trump the new Godwin's law?

Sorry if I wasn't clear on the political part.  I'm not judging him on his politics.  I'm judging him for being mean and petty and it reminded me how Trump spitefully fired the former Director of the FBI one day before his retirement date therefore cutting his retirement compensation.  Yeah, Frank signed the agreement, so that sort of negates my argument/feelings on this, but having him work in another restaurant won't hurt Mirabelle in any way.  Could you imagine Jose Andres doing this?!?!  Me neither.

Some of the places I won't go to for political (and other) reasons are Chic-Fil-a and Jimmy Johns.

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2 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

You have no idea what Ilhan's political leaning is.  You are merely speculating and comparing him to Trump for no reason.  Are comparisons to Trump the new Godwin's law?  

Long after Trump is gone from the political landscape (and assuming we are still around) I think that the term "trumpian" will resound.  That is my opinion.  It might have NO political orientation.  It will reflect on his personality. 

I personally hate that personality type; self centered to the extreme, loyalty is a one way route; you 100% loyal to him-he not having an ounce of loyalty to you.  Selfish, demanding, completely oblivious to the "rule of law".  A world class liar.  ......need I go on?

When I worked as a commercial real estate agent I used to run into some disagreeable people like him.  They owned real estate companies.  They were self styled little kings in their own family businesses--the omnipotent one.  None displayed all of the qualities tRump has.

The opposite type of person might be reflected in this type of personality type and could handle other types of jobs:  Link

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39 minutes ago, DaveO said:

Long after Trump is gone from the political landscape (and assuming we are still around) I think that the term "trumpian" will resound.  That is my opinion.  It might have NO political orientation.  It will reflect on his personality. 

I personally hate that personality type; self centered to the extreme, loyalty is a one way route; you 100% loyal to him-he not having an ounce of loyalty to you.  Selfish, demanding, completely oblivious to the "rule of law".  A world class liar.  ......need I go on?

When I worked as a commercial real estate agent I used to run into some disagreeable people like him.  They owned real estate companies.  They were self styled little kings in their own family businesses--the omnipotent one.  None displayed all of the qualities tRump has.

The opposite type of person might be reflected in this type of personality type and could handle other types of jobs:  Link

I've been catching up on my Twilight Zone watching and last night I caught this obscure episode, One More Pallbearer. The lead character, Paul Radin, is positively Trumpian. Nothing to do with politics. He's a mean-spirited, petty, resentful, bullying man (and a real estate developer to boot!). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_More_Pallbearer

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On 9/25/2019 at 7:58 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

He's getting sued for violating a non-compete.  Anna Spiegel for Washingtonian.

Sorry, I haven't had internet access for several days, and am just catching up. If either Frank or Aggie wish to come forward about the issues surrounding their termination (including any monies owed to them), I can perhaps verify that they turned to me for help shortly afterwards.

[Please understand that I need to delete any political posts in this thread, although I do think the "T-word" is in the process of entering our lexicon without necessarily having political ramifications (refer to "quisling," "hanjian," etc.)]

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Leaving politics aside, I can say that as a former patron of Mirabelle when Chef Ruta was there, and a current patron under the new regime, I am unlikely to return based on what I've read thus far, though am open to hearing more about what sounds like a potentially nuanced situation.

I've no axe to grind with Hakhan Ilhan, but this makes two of his places I won't patronize (the other being Al Dente, for obvious reasons).

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Just because you can do something does not mean you should.  I am hard pressed to see how Frank's employment can do actual harm to Mr Ilhan's empire. He very publicly repudiated Frank's cooking by very publicly parting ways with him, tossing out the old concept, etc.  I am not a fan of his empire so I will not be able to withdraw my business from it, but I htink a lot of Frank's fans might feel like doing so.  

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As a PR professional who often works on legal issues, I’d just like to say there are times when it is better to listen to your PR professional than your lawyer. This would be such an example. (Though as a PR professional, rarely do people listen to us over their lawyers). 🙁

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The non-compete seems overly broad both in geographical location and cuisine style (not being able to cook American food for example...in America). Plus, per the Eater story, if the quote is true -- 'The agreement says the chef would be released from the non-compete if 'the employer decides to change direction/concept of the business ad Frank Ruta's employment would no longer be necessary.''. Given the owner no longer seemed interested in going for Michelin stars (something he was obvious about in planning the restaurant, sending Frank and Aggie to France for some time) due to the, also Eater quoted, 'Frank was let go for having very high goods and labor costs, cost management was an issue.' - it seems clear a change in direction and concept occurred. Plus, he fired both Frank and Aggie (in July 2018, not September = indicating maybe some presumed settlement/severance?). It is not like they quit to go work somewhere else - he fired them, ffs.

Anyway, if this ever goes to actual litigation, I find it unlikely that the agreement in enforceable as written. These things tend to get thrown out - I hope. This is sour grapes from the Mirabelle owner and he's trying to muck things up for Frank. Frank's got a new partner in Bajaj and hopefully access to an experienced attorney to handle this situation. What a pain in the ass.

I miss Frank's food and really hope this gets resolved quickly.

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Kinda.  I'm not sure that thing will be the same if it's not coming out of the precise kitchen that Frank runs.

Can't wait for Annabelle to open up, I've been devoid of a high end celebration place in DC since he left Mirabelle

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6 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Frank Ruta's famed Palena Burger is coming back....

9 minutes ago, DPop said:

Kinda.  I'm not sure that thing will be the same if it's not coming out of the precise kitchen that Frank runs.

Can't wait for Annabelle to open up, I've been devoid of a high end celebration place in DC since he left Mirabelle

Whee!

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On 11/26/2019 at 4:26 PM, DPop said:

Kinda.  I'm not sure that thing will be the same if it's not coming out of the precise kitchen that Frank runs.

Can't wait for Annabelle to open up, I've been devoid of a high end celebration place in DC since he left Mirabelle

Truth. We last had his food in December 2017. I am really, really in need of an infusion - I look forward to Annabelle opening up ASAP.

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Fingers crossed - Annabelle was slated to open "mid January" but I haven't heard anything anywhere about it. I found it interesting that today's article in the Washingtonian about the top ranked restaurant openings they are looking forward to in 2020, did not even make a mention of Annabelle! Good- better chance for me to get a reservation! 😉

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From Tom's chat today

Quote

Q: New Frank Ruta/Ashok Bajaj joint?

Hi Tom. Any updates on when Annabelle will open? Thanks!
A: Tom Sietsema

Owner Ashok Bajaj tells me he's putting the finishing touches on the place (formerly Restaurant Nora). Food trials have been happening for the past few weeks and service training started Monday. "Hopefully, if all goes well with the liquor license and other formalities," Annabelle will open Jan. 16, says Bajaj. #cantwait
— Jan 08, 2020 11:06 EST

 

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Annabelle's website showed that it was "open" at 5:30 today. Must be the soft opening, as official opening is Friday 17th.  Popville has the bar, dessert, and wine menus as well. It reads very much like Palena, to me (and I don't see that as a bad thing.😁) If we hadn't already had plans today for Mr. S' birthday, we would seriously have considered popping in to the bar. Plan is to celebrate when we go on the 21st!

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17 hours ago, squidsdc said:

Annabelle's website showed that it was "open" at 5:30 today. Must be the soft opening, as official opening is Friday 17th.  Popville has the bar, dessert, and wine menus as well. It reads very much like Palena, to me (and I don't see that as a bad thing.😁) If we hadn't already had plans today for Mr. S' birthday, we would seriously have considered popping in to the bar. Plan is to celebrate when we go on the 21st!

We will be going soon as well, but not opening weekend. Looking forward to it.

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Not this weekend, but driving home now from a delicious dinner. Palena 2.0 🥰

Seriously-Mr. S said the chicken was just as he remembered it, and missed it. The menu was pared back from the original opening plans to better be able to manage and for the kitchen to get in its stride. We had no hiccups tonight. I’ll post menu and what we ordered after we get home.

Edited by squidsdc
ETA-pics all seem to be over 2GB. Sorry 🙁
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3 hours ago, DPop said:

Great post as usual, Pool Boy, I think you might be an even bigger Frank fanboy than Don 😋

I happily pass that badge to Pool Boy, which he surely wears as a badge of honor. 😍

I'm so happy for Frank that he has the stability of Ashok, and I'm so happy for Ashok that he has the talent of Frank, and such a lovely space in the old Nora building.

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We had thoroughly enjoyed Chef Ruta’s culinary mastery in his previous digs, Palena and Mirabelle. Thus, we were anxious to try his new restaurant near Dupont Circle and went there last weekend, just one week after Annabelle’s opening.

For main courses, we chose the smoked olive-oil -poached Chatham cod, the home-dry-aged rib eye beef steak and the roasted free-range half-chicken with tarragon jus, oca root boulangere and wilted spinach. The entrees were all excellently executed (meaning that we liked them a lot, lest somebody might think we possess superior technical knowledge…). Though we also agreed that the succulent chicken (crispy on the outside, moist inside, super tasty throughout) stood out as the top pf the pack, in terms of cost-benefit analysis (aka bang for the buck). The most committed meat eater among us (that would be me) thought that the rib eye steak at 9oz was a bit on the smallish side. That is certainly good for the cows, probably beneficial to the environment, perhaps helpful for human health, but it certainly does little to improve my mood.

Before the main courses, we had the “Carbonara” (a riff on the typical Roman dish with duck confit replacing the guanciale or pancetta and egg sabayon replacing the fresh egg dictated by eternal city tradition). We also tried three different salads, namely the beet, Caesar-esque, and Boston Lettuce salads, all scrumptious, with the Caesar-esque perhaps being the most notable.

Annabelle is located in the building that once hosted the famous Nora, well known for being the first farm-to-table/organic restaurant in the DC area. Although the general arrangement and resulting atmosphere of Annabelle are very pleasant, we felt that there are some minor quirks in the architecture of the place following its renovation. The entrance leads you straight to the bar area and the space between host and door is quite narrow and feels crammed. Moreover, the restrooms are located in a tight corridor in front of a fairly noisy servers’ desk, which takes away from the desirable privacy in bathroom practice. Finally, our table was in the back area, a sort of patio with a lot of green and interesting artwork, but quite cold compared to the rest of the restaurant, maybe because of the glass roof.

The waiters all were very professional and indeed charming.

In sum, an excellent gastronomic experience which we will repeat. 

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