By Nicole Bayne
“You know what Clarity is actually? It’s a culinary hangout,” says chef and owner Jonathan Krinn. With his background in fine dining (2941, the late Inox), Krinn says the vibes will be different at Clarity, his casual, open-kitchen concept opening Tuesday.
Krinn is longtime friends with much of his team, especially chef and managing partner Jason Maddens, whom he worked with at 2941. When Krinn found the space in Vienna, he immediately called Maddens and said, “I’m not doing it if you’re not doing it with me.”
As small plates dominate menus elsewhere, Clarity’s structure remains traditional with composed entrees. There are appetizers, too, plus bottomless (!) sides for $5, which include duck fat fingerling potatoes with bacon and braised barley with root vegetables.
Entrees include steaks, pastas and octo-bobs, aka octopus kabobs: braised octopus with a Korean barbecue glaze, chargrilled, dusted with crushed pork rinds and skewered. But for larger parties, there are much larger plates.
During Clarity’s opening week, a whole lamb shoulder, smothered with garlic, harissa and Moroccan spices and slow-roasted overnight, will be available for groups. An entire section of the menu, Chip off the Block, says Maddens, is designed “for a table of four where everyone can kind of go at it.”
In designing the space, Maddens and Krinn dismissed a usual front-of-house, back-of-house mentality, creating a 12-seat bar as an extension of the kitchen and a seven-seat kitchen counter. Clarity’s main dining room can seat 60 guests with another 25 on the patio.
The drink program, led by former CityZen sommelier Nico Gaskell, who worked with Krinn at Inox, cultivated a list from around the world but nods to the home turf with Charlottesville’s Keswick Vineyards.
Maddens and Krinn will be “constantly tweaking each dish” because Clarity is designed so customers will have the option of approaching the kitchen to request meals. Both chefs credit this capability to the closeness of their team.
“We do feel it’s a unique concept we put together,” Maddens says. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities to gather all the people you’ve worked with before and want to work with again. I think it adds to the meaningfulness of the restaurant.” / Opening April 7: Clarity; 442 Maple Ave. E, Vienna