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The Rebirth of Cool

BY Nevin Martell | May 29, 2018 | Feature Features

Ashok Bajaj's modern Israeli restaurant, Sababa, is spicing up Northwest DC.
The charred eggplant with herbed labneh, pomegranates and pistachios

There’s something happening in Cleveland Park. The Northwest neighborhood has been hit with several high-profile closings in recent years, most notably Ripple and Palena. But there’s a bright flame of hope, thanks to Sababa, the latest venture from serial restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, who owns Rasika, Bibiana, the Oval Room and others. It takes over the space once occupied by Bajaj’s Ardeo + Bardeo—another longtime institution that was snuffed out earlier this year—while taking its cues from stateside standard-bearers of modern Israeli cuisine, like Zahav in Philadelphia and Shaya in New Orleans.

Sababa means “cool” in Hebrew, and the establishment lives up to its name. (Fun fact: Bajaj’s adjacent concept, Indian street-food eatery Bindaas, takes its moniker from the Hindi word for “cool.”) There’s a small lounge at the front, where you’ll likely find yourself waiting if you don’t have a reservation—the restaurant has quickly become a hot spot in the District. Fairy lights are strung over the 12-seat bar, which blends into the 90-person dining room decorated with carved wooden screens, palm fronds, lanterns and white canvas draped from the ceiling. It’s as if you’ve entered a Bedouin tent. The golden glow of naked filament bulbs hanging from the ceiling infuses the room with hazy warmth.

The kitchen is presided over by executive chef Ryan Moore, a veteran of Minibar, Rogue 24 and Bistro Provence. This job is somewhat a return to his roots; his stepmother is Egyptian, and he spent time working in Dubai.

Photography Courtesy Of: