Diners in D.C. have been anticipating Albisu’s return ever since he left his job as executive chef at BLT Steak early last year. In 2013, he’ll be back in action in a major way — his first solo restaurant, a Mexican taqueria called Taco Bamba, will open soon in Falls Church, and he’ll debut an even more ambitious project, an asado (South American barbecue) restaurant called Del Campo, in Penn Quarter this spring.
What D.C. chef, past or present, has been an inspiration for you? Why?
"I came up in D.C. kitchens, so I still feel like I was influenced indirectly by Jean-Louis Palladin, because I worked with a lot of people who worked for him. He had such a distinctive style, and stories about him were in all the kitchens I worked in. I think that Todd Gray is a great chef. His demeanor is one that everyone wishes they could have."
If you had to pick a last meal for yourself from a D.C. restaurant, what would it be?
"Hands down, the best thing I ate last year was the blanquette de veau at Mintwood Place. The goat shoulder at Komi is one of the best dishes in the city. We eat a lot of Pollo Rico in Arlington with the family."
What’s the most hilarious or harrowing kitchen disaster you’ve experienced?
"I had a crazy night at a restaurant I will not name when our range hood went down and I had to climb on the roof to readjust the belt in the middle of a big lightning and thunder storm. I had to come back down drenched and run the line the rest of the night."
Who isn’t on this list that we should have included?
"Haidar Karoum (Proof, Estadio) is opening a new Asian restaurant that will be a hot ticket. The chef at Taberna del Alabardero, Javier Romero, is really great at Old World-New World fusion food. I’ve been very impressed."
What dish of yours best exemplifies your approach as a chef?
"I do a take on what’s traditionally called a matambre, an Argentinean rolled skirt steak dish stuffed with cheese and vegetables. My take is a skirt steak roulade that has charred onions, manchego cheese, fresh herbs, and burnt onion chimichurri. I grill it slowly, instead of poaching it. I love grilled and charred elements."
If you hadn't been a chef, what profession would you have chosen?
"I used to work in the international development field, but I also play the guitar and might have been a musician."