“If it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Either no one ever told chef Chris Shepherd that cliche or he doesn’t believe in it.
After a high-flying seven-month run as One Fifth Steak, so successful that the chef is looking for a permanent home for the eatery, Friday, the restaurant with the ambitious plan of changing concepts annually for five years, switches gears to a new incarnation: One Fifth Romance Languages.
The space features a new look and new menu inspired by the cuisines of Spain, France, and Italy. Partner Kevin Floyd worked with local design firm Collaborative Projects to soften the interior. The red and blue color scheme of One Fifth Steak has been replaced with greens, blues, and purples. Fabric panels now adorn the ceiling.
As he discussed on a recent episode of CultureMap's podcast "What's Eric Eating," Shepherd had previously never made Italian food. In order to prepare for Romance Languages, he spent two weeks in Italy this summer, and plans to go back to Europe at least once during its run.
“Two weeks in Italy wasn’t nearly enough, but the experience was invaluable, ” Shepherd said in a statement. “I met amazing people who showed me their cuisine and ingredients through their eyes and through their personal stories. I hope the sense of place I discovered in Europe translates on a plate to my guests. If so, One Fifth Romance Languages is a success in my book.”
While the menu maintains some constants — a caviar appetizer, a really big 44 Farms ribeye, and several seafood towers — the preparations are all new. For example, seafood tower options include dishes like Crab Louie, along with items like king crab legs and charcuterie.
Also, the dishes are meant to be coursed, and the portions will be smaller than at the steakhouse. Prices are a little lower, too, although the extensive wine list and selection of premium whiskeys are still capable of driving a meal at One Fifth Romance Languages into splurge territory.
Most of the entrees are new, including five pastas. Shepherd and chef de cuisine Nick Fine have sourced eggs from Yonder Way Farms and Knopp Branch Farms to realize the proper spaghetti carbonara. Bolognese, an Italian classic, features duck hearts as the meat in the sauce.
As promised, cast iron paella is available for the table. In a release, Fine describes the process he took to perfect the suckling pig presse:
“This dish is 100 percent technique driven because it requires selecting the perfect size and age of pig to achieve the right bone-to-meat ratio,” he explains. “We tried this dish with at least five different pigs, and determined 24- to 30-pound milk-fed pigs gave us the best yield and texture.”
It will be hard to top the buzz Shepherd created for One Fifth Steak, but the variety of Romance Language’s menu should put it in position to deliver a very satisfying dining experience.