At Estuary, the restaurant at the new Conrad Washington DC hotel, Maryland-born Top Chef alums Bryan and Michael Voltaggio create dishes inspired by the Chesapeake Bay, such as this playful crab roll. “This area isn’t Southern, it isn’t New England, but it is distinct,” Michael says. “It just hasn’t been celebrated in a luxury setting, because people have been too busy celebrating it in backyards.”
As kids, the Voltaggio brothers used to catch crabs by tossing buckets of chicken liver off the piers in Ocean City, Maryland. Today, they’re still using True Blue–certified Maryland blue crab.
“Crab dip, crab cakes, steamed crabs—it’s very either/or,” Bryan says of the limited ways blue crab is traditionally served in the Mid-Atlantic. “Here we added an ‘and.’” Their crab roll starts with a split-top brioche bun from nearby Lyon bakery. It’s brushed with butter from a local organic milk co-op and toasted to give it a frico-like savory crunch.
The mayonnaise-based dressing includes Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and a kiss of Tabasco. “I like taking lots of strong flavors and adding basic salt and pepper,” Bryan says. “It keeps people guessing.”
The roll is garnished with locally grown ice plant, a crisp succulent that tastes like cucumber. Pro tip from Bryan: “You can gut the seed and grow it yourself.”
“We want to replace pretension with playfulness,” Michael says of the crab-shaped plantain chips, which cooks toss into the open kitchen’s fryer one by one—“like a blackjack dealer”—so they don’t stick together. To double down on authenticity, the chips are dusted with classic McCormick’s Old Bay seasoning, which has a higher concentration of celery salt than other wannabays.