Washington, D.C. chef and restaurateur Mike Isabella will open Arroz in the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C on March 27 for dinner, lunch, and weekend brunch service will begin later this spring. Arroz, Spanish for rice, is Isabella’s contemporary take on the cuisines of Southern Spain and Morocco.

Isabella welcomes executive chef Michael Rafidi to helm the kitchen and collaborate on the menu. Originally from the area, Rafidi returns to Washington, D.C. from Mina Group in San Francisco, by way of Noma in Copehagen and Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia. Most recently Rafidi served as executive chef at Michael Mina’s RN74.

“Spain has always been one of my favorite countries to explore and dine around – the deep variety and strong regional identity of Spanish cuisine is unlike anything else,” Isabella says. “I’ve recently had the chance to travel around Morocco as well, and was fascinated by how much these areas influence each other’s art, architecture and food. I think Arroz captures that intersection, and Michael Rafidi is the right chef to collaborate on this concept. I’m excited to share our interpretation of these food cultures with D.C.”   

On the Menu

Through the culinary lens of chefs Rafidi and Isabella, the menu takes a contemporary look at Southern Spanish and Moroccan food. Rather than recreating specific dishes native to these areas, Rafidi has developed a menu that nods to the flavors and techniques prominent in their cooking while presenting his take on the classics. This approach is evident in dishes like hot smoked bone marrow with pan con tomate and oxtail marmalade, lobster soupy rice with sea urchin and mussels, and mushroom tempero with romesco. Spanish red prawns with seaweed salt and lemon, as well as cod croquettes with sunny side up quail eggs and buttermilk crema will be unique dishes. Also expect sections of the menu devoted to egg preparations, Valencian bomba rice dishes, and large format items including Moorish chicken and ribeye with patatas bravas and harissa butter. Guests may also order from snack carts making their way around the dining room. 

When the second location of Arroz opens as one of 10 concepts inside Isabella Eatery at Tysons Galleria this fall, the menu will skew more traditional Spanish.

In Your Glass

The beverage program at Arroz takes a drinkable journey through Spain, Portugal and Morocco led by Mike Isabella Concepts beverage director Taha Ismail, a native of Casablanca. The wine selection leans heavily on Spain and Portugal, including bottles from Ismail’s favorite regions, Toro, Rueda and Ribera del Duero, alongside an intriguing list of Sherry, Port, Madeira and cider.

Cocktail offerings are a collaboration from Ismail and bar manager Jason Smith, a transplant from Kapnos, and similarly reflect a Spanish and Portuguese palate with several varieties of sangria and a section of composed gin & tonics, as well as Moroccan influences and ingredients – Mahia (fig brandy), dates, Moroccan cinnamon, Ras el Hanout, harissa – uniquely incorporated as beverage components or garnishes.

The Space

Natalie Park Design Studio is behind the look and feel of Arroz, which offers a contemporary take on Moroccan and Spanish architecture, motifs and colors. The restaurant evokes the rich, sensual tapestry of the cultures it represents immediately upon arrival with a main entryway framed in custom laser-cut, backlit bronze panels displaying bold Vegas-style signage. Traditional architectural details like Arabesque and keyhole archways are mixed with stylized geometric elements in the coffered ceilings, tiled floors and wall trim work. Bursts of rich blue hues and bronze accents are set against a neutral backdrop, with patterned textiles, bronzed mirrors and plush seating for a warm, exotic vibe present throughout the restaurant experience.

Another hallmark of the design is custom woodwork by Charlie Nemeth, Isabella’s father-in-law, who built Arroz’s gray-stained elm tabletops in the main dining area, as well as a live-edge natural elm table and built-in gray elm credenza that bring a rustic touch to the chic private dining room.

The 138-seat space includes 110 seats in the dining room, and a 28-seat bar and lounge area. The private dining room seating 12 is separated from the main dining room for maximum privacy. An additional 62 seats will come this spring with an outdoor terrace facing Massachusetts Avenue outfitted with fire pits, a mix of lounge and dining seating and canopies overhead.

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