“A beautiful, warm and energetic restaurant featuring sensational Spanish food and an exciting beverage program,” is how Justin Guthrie, general manager of Estadio, describes the new hotspot. Situated in the heart of the city’s thriving 14th Street neighborhood, the 113-seat space with a focus on contemporary northern Spanish cuisine opened this summer to palpable buzz.
The well-designed space utilizes reclaimed 19th-century Spanish tiles, marble, timber and wrought iron. Walls are adorned with bullfighting and flamenco murals, and soccer matches continually play on the flat-screen TV over the bar (owner Mark Kuller, who also heads up DC’s Proof, is a devoted soccer fan and toured extensively in Spain to learn about the country’s cuisine and culture before launching Estadio.)
The wine list is built by Sebastian Zutant, wine director, and boasts 18 dry wines,12 fortified by the glass and more than 200 bottles with a dominant Spanish focus. But that’s not all. Adam Bernbach, bar manager, has created an innovative cocktail program that melds the traditional and the modern. Sparkling and aromatic cocktail Tecolate combines Cava with Tequila, rosemary and grapefruit. Four complex Sherry drinks deftly combine grape and grain, like the Clipper Ship, with Amontillado Sherry, Rhum Agricole and lime. Bernbach makes his own tonic with orange and thyme to mix with Old Raj Gin. And seasonally changing frozen Slushitos offer up eclectic flavor combos like banana, Irish Whiskey, Sherry and lemon.
Most participatory is ordering a beverage served in a porron—a shared drinking vessel with either red or white wine or beer, mixed with soda. “It was modeled after the bota bag and eliminated the need for multiple glasses,” explains Zutant. Guests pour the beverage directly into their mouths, trying not to touch the spout of the glass jug or having the liquid drip down their chins or onto their clothes. It takes practice, but just as with sharing Estadio’s inventive dishes with a group of friends, drinking from a porron makes for a communal and convivial experience.
From the tapas menu, guests can select single bites, such as Jamón Wrapped Fig with Cabrales and Marcona Almonds; half portion-sized raciones offer more substantial fare, and Guthrie cites the hangar steak as a crowd favorite. Marinated until succulently tender, the grilled steak is accompanied by a tomato and bread salad, and topped with a mojo verde. To sip alongside, he recommends the Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla. “Big and smoky flavors from the wine fall in sync with the dish,” he says. Grilled octopus is served with a potato-caper salad and pimenton, and a ten-year-old white Rioja, the 2000 Lopez de Heredia Viura, adds to the dish’s rich, nutty flavors.
Estadio: 1520 14th Street NW, Washington, D.C.; (202) 319-1404