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Mama Rouge, opening Oct. 14, will entice with SE Asian, French flavors

Chef Aulie Bunyarataphan of Mama Rouge

An early concept of the restaurant

Named for a long-gone grandmother beloved by the head chef, Mama Rouge is set to bring its mixture of French dishes and Southeast Asian ones to the waterfront in Georgetown. Starting October 14, diners will be able to nibble dumplings and sip a Thai iced tea, then dine on Steak au Poivre.
“I called [my grandmother] ‘Mae Dang,’” which translates from Thai to ‘Mama Red’ or ‘Mama Rouge,’ says Chef Aulie Bunyarataphan, 47, who has been running restaurants since age 23, a few years after she moved to the U.S. from Bangkok, Thailand.
Her grandmother “loved cooking” and passed on her knowledge to Bunyarataphan, who is opening the new venture with her longtime business partner and co-owner, husband Mel Oursinsiri.
The pair were behind Bangkok Joe’s, which closed earlier this year on this site – 3000 K St. NW – precisely to make way for Mama Rouge to happen. “It has been a dream of mine to do this kind of restaurant, to be a little bit more upscale, to be one of the trendy and talked-about restaurants.
“Bangkok Joe’s was more Thai, more down-to-earth,” Bunyarataphan says of the restaurant that had a good run since its opening in 2003. Yet some of the items beloved on the Bangkok Joe’s menu – dumplings, say, or spring rolls – will show up on plates at Mama Rouge – albeit in a little bit fancier presentation. “The steps for making these dishes are more complex,” she says. “The flavors will be more layered.”
She singles out the pork belly bao buns as a key family recipe, faithful to the original “but a little bit different” in order to keep diners amused and satisfied. A wide array of pho and banh mi (which Bunyarataphan characterizes as a “comfort food” for many) will be available; so will mussels and pommes frites. She and her staff plan to encourage diners to order assorted plates to mix and match the cuisines’ flavors.
The interior architecture and design of the dining room and bar, which will seat 100 and 14 respectively, were overseen and executed by Collective Architecture.
Mama Rouge is fully staffed and has been training for a month, she says. Dinner service starts next week, with lunch service being added the following week. Weekend brunch – heavy on the French omelets and pastries – will be added toward the end of October. 

An earlier version of this article contained several errors. It said that Bunyarataphan began working in restaurants at age 18 (she was 23) and that the menu includes small plates (it does not). Elevation DC regrets the errors.

Read more articles by Amy Rogers Nazarov.

Amy Rogers Nazarov is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist with more than 25 years experience as a staff reporter and a freelance writer, covering technology, adoption, real estate, and lifestyle topics from food & drink to home organizing. Her byline has appeared in Cooking Light, The Washington Post, Slate, Washingtonian, The Writer, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Express, The Baltimore Examiner, The Sacramento Bee, Cure, The Washington Times, Museum, and many other outlets. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and tweets at @WordKitchenDC.
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