Ivan Iricanin, founder and CEO of Street Guys Hospitality, knows to listen to his customers. And what they love about his Clarendon restaurant Ambar (it also has locations in DC and Belgrade, Serbia) is its all-you-can-eat small-plates concept. “This is our niche and we do it really well,” says Iricanin. So well that on April 18, he is reopening the three-story restaurant across the street from Ambar as Buena Vida Gastro Lounge.
During the pandemic, Iricanin closed Buena Vida in its original form, but continued to serve Mexican street food as TTT on the first floor. Why did he wait until now to reopen Buena Vida? “We needed to understand what was going to happen with the world,” the restaurateur says. “No sudden moves were considered–we were playing it safe. At the same time, we were game-planning and seeing what our strategy would be a for a post-COVID world.” That also includes a fresh look on every floor of the space.
And the post-COVID world at Buena Vida promises to be full of flavor. At dinner, guests have two hours to graze through 40 dishes, all conceived by new executive chef Jaime Garciá Pelayo Bribiesca, for a single price of $44.99. Lunch is $25, while brunch is $39.99. Bribiesca brings fine-dining cred to the restaurant, courtesy of time spent working under both Jean-Georges Vongerichten and José Andrés, the latter at his D.C. restaurant, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. A native of Mexico City, the chef focuses his menu on dishes from the North Pacific coast and Central Mexico.
Iricanin points out that tortillas are made fresh in-house. The “Kneaded” section of the menu includes a pork carnitas tamale as well as a plantain version, pork belly gordita, and huitlacoche huarache. Diners can start with soups, salads, guacamole for the table, and raw dishes like the tuna ceviche above, and steak tartare. The rest of the menu flits from slow-cooked meats like lamb barbacoa and Yucatecan cochinita pibil, to grilled proteins, to seafood dishes.
“It’s a different way of eating. It’s more meant for sharing and for people to connect and enjoy,” says Iricanin. “You get a margarita, and it’s even more of a success story.” Still want more? The rooftop lounge will reopen in May.
2900 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
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