After four desolate years, 100 King St. has finally come back to life as the restaurant bearing the same name.
It is appropriate that the reincarnation has assumed the name of its address, as if to pay homage to its historic heritage.
That will probably not be necessary, if first impressions are to be trusted.
This Mediterranean, dual personality, establishment should become a legend in its on right by satisfying both the upbeat, no frills, street-level crowd as well as the more relaxed, sophisticated diners in its elegant upstairs, vaulted ceiling dining room.
"We actually opened rather quietly for business on Dec. 7. Our grand opening is scheduled for Jan. 29 through 31," said Daniela Scott, general manager. "We also offered a fixed price New Year's Eve menu which drew a good crowd."
Occupying the southwest corner of King and Union Streets, 100 King St. has remained vacant for several years since the last attempt to establish a restaurant on the site. When it was The Alamo, it portrayed a western atmosphere with dark oak furniture, walls and bar area. The new 100 King restaurant, is a far cry from all its predecessors, including the former Gaslight.
Customers entering from either King or Union streets are greeted by smooth concrete floors, a well lighted bar area with black tractor style seats, sea foam green glass top tables complimented by deceptively comfortable acrylic backs chairs with flat, black seats.
"The atmosphere on this level is designed as a Mediterranean bistro. It portrays a place where there is lots of action and definitely upbeat," Scott said.
"Upstairs is far more elegant and designed for the more relaxed patrons who want a leisurely dining experience. That menu also features more entrees, although the same menu selections are available on both levels," she said.
THE ENTIRE RESTAURANT is geared to what is known as the small plate concept, although the entrees are larger, Scott said. Small plate portions are scaled down but still provide adequate food to satisfy most diners with a single selection.
They are created by 100 King's premier chef, Denis Soriano, aided by sous-chef Adrian Gutierrez.
Prior to arriving in the United States, Soriano served as a chef in various locales on the French Riviera, as well as in Luzerne, Switzerland, and London, England. In this country he began at La Ferme in Maryland, then traveled to San Francisco as executive chef for the re-opening at Chez Michel.
Prior to coming to 100 King, he served as Chef de Cuisine at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
It was at the Willard that Denis trained Gutierrez.
"I started as a cook in the Navy for five years before I decided to pursue this as a career," Gutierrez said.
After attending Stratford University in Falls Church for two years to receive his associate's degree, Gutierrez worked under Soriano at the Willard. "I learned more under him in three years than I did in school," he said.
That training came in particularly useful with the opening of 100 King. On the day the restaurant decided to open, Soriano and his wife, Adele, were called to California to adopt a child.
"They had been trying to adopt for the past three years. Then they got a call the day we were supposed to open that a baby girl had become available but they needed to come to California right away," said Henrik Suhr, a partner in the restaurant's Traverna Group ownership.
"He has been gone for two weeks. But they are now on their way back to Virginia with their new daughter," he said.
THE LEBANESE-BASED PARTNERSHIP is comprised of five siblings who presently own eight restaurants and four small cafes throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area, according to Scott. The group has owned the 100 King St. property for the past three years.
"It's been a long tortuous process to get open. We gutted the place to the walls and redid the entire interior. There were a lot of things required by the city to bring it up to code even though it had been a restaurant before," Suhr said.
Suhr said the entire kitchen is new and when they removed the third floor to open up the vaulted ceiling all the second floor windows were replaced. However, all the double panes had to be the same size as before because of the requirements for historic preservation in Old Town. They also put in the concrete floors on both levels. There had been only dirt under the previous first level hardwood floor, according to Suhr. The second level is carpeted throughout with white, padded high-back chairs complimenting white tables situated to give diners a view of King Street. The high ceilings are accentuated with elegant crystal chandeliers hung between open white square beams.
Even the wooden staircase to the second floor has been replaced with a carpeted metal one. "We definitely wanted to create two very distinct personalities between the first and second floors," Suhr said.
That distinction is also reflected in the menu. The second floor of elegant dining emphasizes more entree offerings with larger plates. It also features, what Suhr described as "Soriano's signature dish," rack of lamb. It is priced at $29.
Other entrees include sauteed red snapper at $19; filet mignon at $27; roasted black feather chicken stuffed with ricotta and gorgonzola cheese for $17; roasted whole loup de mer at $28; and mixed grill kabob with basmati rice and yogurt dip for $23.
In addition to the entree listings, the overall menu is divided into four sections: Small Plates featuring seafood, fowl, and meats including lamb, steak, and pork loin. Sandwiches are also offered on pitas, ciabatta and baguette breads. Vegetarian Small Plates of goat cheese pizza, Turkish green zucchini cake, polenta souffle, and moroccan couscous are offered and soup and salads that include Lebanese salad, Greek salad, roasted chicken breast complimented by Mediterranean fish soup and butternut squash soup are on the menu.
Prices for the non-entree four divisions of the menu range from small plates from $6 to $12, sandwiches $12 to $14, vegetarian selection from $6 to $8, and soup and salads from $6 to $14. Any of these selections can also be ordered on the second level of the restaurant.
With seating capacity for 64 on the first level, not counting the bar, and space for approximately 100 upstairs, 100 King will be open and serving from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar will remain open until 2 a.m.
Reservations can be made either by calling 703-299-0076 or visiting www.100King.com.
"We are here to serve our customers. If someone shows up for dinner near 10 or 11 p.m., we are not going to refuse them," Scott said.