Set to Sail Downtown: Kellari Taverna
Stavros Aktipis is doing everything he can to avoid the curse of two failed dining rooms at 1700 K St. NW, the address where he'll be opening Kellari Taverna as early as mid-October.
"Everything you remember that was dark" and suggestive of a steakhouse is gone, the restaurateur told me during his site visit to Washington this week. The future dining room for his first Greek seafood restaurant outside of New York, will be lighter, brighter and evocative of the Greek countryside, he says. Envision limestone floors in the bar, oak in the dining room and lots of wine displayed in cabinets and crates: kellari is Greek for "wine cellar," after all. The restaurant expects to offer more than 100 Greek labels.
It will also put a treasure trove of fish and seafood on display in the center of the room. In addition to turbot, Dover sole, octopus and pompano, the selection will include harder-to-find lithrini and fagri from Greece. The former comes from the sea bream family, says Aktipis; the latter is similar to pink snapper.
Manning the charcoal grill: Anthony Acinapura, who last cooked at the nearby Potenza and is currently in New York watching how things are done at Kellari Taverna and Kellari Bistro. Aktipis's mantra: Keep it simple, just olive oil, salt and herbs ("no butter!") to dress up his fish, which will be sold by the pound. The owner says the chef's Italian-American background is a plus. "Our cuisines cross over a little bit." Traditional Greek spreads, plus lamb and beef, will flesh out the menu.
Aktipis, who says he hopes to someday relocate here, has been looking for a site in Washington for more than two years. He hopes he has it with the former home to the short-lived Restaurant K and Jimmy's on K St. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed."
-- Tom Sietsema