The Park at Fourteenth won’t officially open until mid-November, but proprietor Dirk van Stockum rolled out the red carpet Tuesday night and gave an invitation-only crowd an early peek at his new restaurant and nightspot overlooking Franklin Square.
Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Van Stockum ran the popular DC nightclubs Fifth Column and Club Zei. He returns to the area after stints in New York, Miami, and most recently Las Vegas, where he served as marketing director for Tao, a massive Asian-themed bistro-lounge in the Venetian. He’s now the frontman for the Park, which is co-owned by promoter Masoud A.—who also owns Lima, the Nuevo-Latino-themed lounge just across K Street—and Marc Barnes of the Northeast DC mega-club Love.
DC’s restaurant/club hybrids—such as neighbors Lima and 14K—usually don’t get many accolades for their food, but the Park is attempting to break the mold. Van Stockum dedicated two floors to dining and hired two executive chefs to oversee and execute the menu—which they’re still tweaking. Expect “creative American classics” like tomato soup with a crouton of grilled artisan cheese and a duo of short ribs, barbecue-style and classically braised.
On Tuesday, the well-dressed crowd included billionaire Microstrategy CEO Michael Saylor, socialite blogger Pamela Sorensen, and former congressman and NBA player Tom McMillen, who walked the red carpet into the elegant four-story space, done up with dark wood, leather banquettes, and glass-blown chandeliers. Each level offered one of the Park’s signature cocktails, all named after former First Ladies. The tongue-in-cheek Betty was a sweet but strong concoction of Belvedere, Champagne, pomegranate juice, and agave nectar. We preferred the simple, classic Jackie O—a Plymouth gin martini with fresh lemon juice and sage.
Passed hors d’oeuvres were hard to come by, but the bites we managed to snag were tasty enough, especially spice-rubbed salmon over tiny rounds of cornbread and meaty drumsticks of jerk chicken. The Caribbean accents come from co-executive chef Lois Spencer, who grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and previously oversaw the kitchen at Love. The other half of the Park’s cooking team is James Balster, an alum of several Washington kitchens, including 15 Ria and the Beacon Bar and Grill.
The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner on the Park’s first two floors—prime spots are on the ground level in view of the open kitchen. Upstairs will stay quiet until nightlife hours Wednesday through Saturday, when the lounge will feature DJs and offer bottle service to high-rollers in addition to four bars.
By Sara Levine | November 1, 2007
Washington Post - Link to Original Article