New Dupont Wine Bar Gives Bad Advice for Bad Tinder Dates

The Italian-Indian menu isn’t the oddest thing about Nero

by Tierney Plumb  Jan 9, 2019

Nero’s bar area includes glowing orbs, a geometric-shaped mirror design behind the liquor, and a long copper bar.

 Helen Kozak Photography/Helen Kozak

Nero DC joined the Dupont Circle bar rotation last month, bringing the bustling Connecticut Avenue NW strip a quiet refuge to wind down with self-dispensing wine while sampling Indian and Italian dishes in one place.

The rare mash-up of cuisines isn’t the strangest part of the new menu. That honor goes to a winking introductory section that honors the venue’s namesake, a hard-partying Roman emperor who drove a chariot, while offering advice to customers stuck on on bad Tinder dates. It goes like this (SIC):

"Wild orgies fueled by a love for Bacchus, the wine god...an Olympic Gold medalist with an asterisk ...Possessing a love for the arts and music exceeding that of all other Roman emperor’s...let the wine flow and the games begin... if it’s a Tinder date, share a pizza and pretend that you care about your figure...if they are going straight to the friend zone, f#ck it, eat a whole pie.

“We’ve quickly become a big first date spot,” owner Vikram Bhalla says.

Wine dispensers also celebrate the historical figure: “Wine here is on tap in the fashion the wine god Bacchus would have instructed Nero to provide at his wild parties,” starts the wine list."

The four Wineemotion temperature-controlled machines anchor the center of the 55-seat space. Regions of California, Italy, France, and Virginia are represented in 2, 3, or 5-ounce pours ($3-$18) accessible via a card bought from the bar.

Bhalla says the system, which he’s only spotted locally in Reston, enables patrons to sample small pours of pricey bottles like a 1997 Terreno Chianti from Tuscany. There’s also wines by the glass or bottle, cocktails like the mezcal-infused Nero’s Revenge (served flaming), and beer at the bar.

Chef Andrew Holden (Cedar Knoll in Alexandria) oversees a menu where truffle pizza, meat and cheese plates, and burrata share space with tandoori chicken pops.

“I just wanted to offer something different in a unique way. Why not combine two amazing cuisines? Our guests seem to love it,” he says, adding the veggie and lamb samosas have been the best seller so far.

 

While the menu sets an absurd tone, Bhalla put some serious thought into the design of the wine bar occupying the space left behind by Red Apron Butcher’s burger stand at 1323 Connecticut Avenue NW. Working with architects Shireen Gerhold, he added a copper bar top, soft lounge seating, glowing orbs, and distressed murals reminiscent of ancient times.

Nero plans to debut weekend brunch on Saturday, January 19. The weekend meal will feature eight dishes, including an Indian vegetarian option, a few Italian-inspired items, and classics like eggs Benedict. He’d like to scale the model, naming Georgetown and Clarendon as potential neighborhoods for more Neros.

Nero opens at 4 p.m. seven days a week and closes at midnight on the weekdays and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy hour runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Parties can also cozy up in the back living room-style area, which can also be rented out.

Nero’s four wine dispensers, at $15,000 apiece, hold 32 hard-to-find bottles at a time (set at 65 degrees for red, 52 degrees for white).

 Helen Kozak Photography/Helen Kozak

Nero’s back lounge area typically keeps its TV on “roaring fire” mode. A patio will soon come online.

Nero’s back lounge area typically keeps its TV on “roaring fire” mode. A patio will soon come online.

 Helen Kozak Photography/Helen Kozak

Painter Nicolette Atelier sanded and chiseled her design to create a fresco mural.

 Helen Kozak Photography/Helen Kozak

Nero serves six types of pies with dough made daily, including roasted apple and andouille or pork belly and mango versions.

 Helen Kozak Photography/Helen Kozak

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