Slate Wine Bar has a new menu and Chef Danny Lledó is confident. Not just confident about one dish in particular, but an entire symphony of Spanish-American, Mediterranean-influenced plates. Lledó has a dynamic space, full staff and a Michelin star behind him as he rolls out Slate’s menu — one he says was created with love, care and intention.
When Lledó describes his new menu, he becomes an artist holding a completed canvas. The menu items are each a part of one whole, with dish and beverage pairings designed to work in harmony and achieve a complex, delicate balance.
“The process is interesting because it comes from a long study and a long experience that I’ve had,” Lledó says. “This gets into dynamics of balance when it comes to the food and sequence, but without such an elaborate event as Xiquet.”
Slate’s new menu was created in reaction to a market fostered by the pandemic — one where people are less eager and able to sit down at a bar for a tasting menu. The new prix fixe menu is shorter and meant to support larger dishes, but shorter does not mean less in Lledó’s kitchen.
“It’s not just accessibility; it’s more about having a shorter format that still can fill you up.”
Styled into four courses, the menu takes you through 14 options, including grilled octopus with purple potatoes, Ovoka Farms’ Wagyu striploin, a palate-cleansing course and chocolate bomb with a passionfruit chocolate glaze. From appetizer to dessert, there’s a diverse selection of dishes ranging from casual to high-end, designed to be elevated with a carefully curated wine list.
Both Slate and its sister restaurant specializing in Valencian cuisine, Xiquet, are located in the same Glover Park space. But while Xiquet’s activity during the pandemic and Lledó’s famous paella resulted in his first Michelin star in April, Slate suffered. Lledó’s eager to see his regulars again at Slate, noting the restaurant thrives on its familiarity with its patrons.
“For me, that’s part of the reason why I enjoy so much of what I do. It’s having that neighborhood feel.”
Later in our conversation, Lledó noted the overall feel and dining experience are accomplished through his staff.
“The space is wonderful, but it’s only as good as the people. And we cherish warm hospitality here and a welcoming environment. We believe strongly the customers need to be treated like they’re coming into our house.”
While Lledó hails from Montgomery County, he’s spent his life traveling to Spain, where he has roots in Spain’s eastern coast. This heritage and experience fuel his passion and creativity, and this new menu is no exception.
When I asked him how he felt about the Michelin Guide using the words “confident” and “intentional” to describe his cooking and restaurant, he laughed through a grin.
“It sounds silly, but all the competitions I’ve participated in over the past five years and having that sports mentality helps to deliver a great product. For me, every day is a tournament.”
With this mindset, it’s easy to understand why creating the menu under a bit of pressure was both challenging and not for Lledó. He views the larger plates as an opportunity for more physical space to make an impression, but also a puzzle of more ingredients to fit into harmony. And for someone who likes to provoke all the senses, that’s not always easy.
“There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to putting a dish together. Right now, we’re working on menu items for the rest of the year.”
For Lledó, his customers are his North Star, constantly reminding him of what’s important. And he continues to use them as his guide when planning seasonal adjustments for the upcoming months.
He knows Slate isn’t a place where people stop by weekly to grab dinner: Slate is an experience, a special occasion, a celebration. And it’s this self-awareness that allows Slate its sense of fluidity and possibility — where the new menu doesn’t mark failure but beckons success.
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