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Flight of Fancy

BY Nevin Martell | August 29, 2017 | Feature Features National

Culinary maestro Cathal Armstrong delivers another gem with Old Town's Hummingbird.
The clambake is Armstrong's homage to the sea and late summer.

IRISH-BORN CATHAL Armstrong is best known for Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve, which celebrates the culinary traditions of his birthplace. However, through Society Fair and the Majestic (he is no longer associated with the latter), the award-winning chef has explored the cooking of his adopted homeland. He digs down into those roots further with Hummingbird, a coastal-themed venture inside the recently opened Indigo Hotel on the banks of the Potomac.

Look across the river. You’ll see the outlines of DC’s District Wharf, which is set to open later this fall and feature two more concepts from Armstrong’s group: Southeast Asian-minded Kaliwa and Potomac Distilling Company. The distilling venue will produce its own rum under the watchful eye of the chef’s partner, decorated barman Todd Thrasher.

Turn your eye back to Hummingbird, and you’ll find servers in fetching gingham shirts flitting about the 65-seat restaurant, which includes a main dining room, a semiprivate space, a small lounge area and a 40-seat patio. The tones throughout are largely nautical—dusky navy blues and bright whites—with subtle silver-and-copper accents, like the fittings on a ship. Just a few steps from the marina, it possesses a chic yacht-club sensibility.

The seafood-forward menu emphasizes prime ingredients. Armstrong puts the star in starters. Crabcakes are made with barely any binder, well-complemented by a mustardy remoulade. A tender tentacle of octopus curls around capers, green olives and cherry tomatoes that add sweetness to balance the bounty of brine. For a more terrestrial kickoff, a grilled Gruyere and Virginia ham sandwich on brioche is simple and highly satisfying.

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