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Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity ~ Signature Theatre

Jordan Wright
March 12, 2019 

Plunged into anarchy in an apocalyptic scenario in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, Layla struggles to make sense of what appears to be the end of her life.  As a world-famous art conservationist, she had been spending her days in an art museum cataloguing the most important things in the world – statues, relics, books, paintings, music, photos and more – in case of just such a catastrophe.

Holly Twyford in Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity ~ Photo credit C Stanley Photography

Now rubble and ruin lie all around her and she is trapped in this museum-turned-prison in a city under constant barrage.  Layla is despondent over the destruction of the precious and intangible heritage of our humanity by an enemy who seeks to build a new world order.

Felicia Curry, Yesenia Iglesias, and Holly Twyford in Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity ~  Photo credit C Stanley Photographer

Crippled with injuries inflicted by her ruthless guard, Mitra, she shares her chamber with a young Muslim woman, Nadia, who silently tends to her wounds.  Mitra demands Layla restore a damaged Rembrandt painting.  She refuses, pondering what is left of her life without her father and daughter and what in the world is worth saving.  Each woman has seen their loved ones slaughtered and each is tethered to one another by the commonality of deep loss.  Incongruously, they are united by the brutality of war and its aftermath.  Will the women escape the fate imposed on them by the soldiers’ bloodthirsty struggle for power? Will art? And if so, how?

DC playwright Heather McDonald’s world premiere Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity asks of us where the world would be without beauty, without art or music, and without nations who hold culture and civilization in high esteem.  How did we get here, and why, are the questions posed by this dystopian drama.

Set to the haunting strains of opera and against the constant volley of bullets and explosives, Zachary G. Borovay’s projections offer a realistic sense of being front and center on the battlefield.  Synched to James Bigbee Garver’s sounds of war, and James Kronzer’s scenic design of broken statues and crumbling buildings, it gives us a bird’s eye view of the confusion and misery experienced by those who suffer the consequences.

Holly Twyford and Yesenia Iglesias in Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity ~ Photo credit C Stanley Photographer

Fierce performances by two beloved Helen Hayes Award-winning actors, Holly Twyford as Layla and Felicia Curry as Mitra, and Yesenia Iglesias as Nadia.  This is a thinking person’s play – edgy, dark and important – a play I’d expect to see produced by the more politically-minded Mosaic Theater, though I am more than excited to see Artistic Director Eric Schaefer tackle such profound subject matter with the brilliant and internationally-respected director, Nadia Tass.

Costume Design by Kathleen Geldard, Lighting Design by Sherrice Mojgani, Sound Design & Original Music by James Bigbee Garver, and Fight Choreography by Robb Hunter.

Highly recommended.

Through April 7th in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre (Shirlington Village), 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, VA 22206.  For tickets and information call 703 820-9771 or visit www.signature-theatre.org.

Confection ~ Folger Theatre

Jordan Wright
March 11, 2019 

Running concurrently with the exhibition First Chefs: Fame and Foodways from Britain to the Americas, is Confection.  Commissioned by the Folger Theatre, it is a delightful 17th century romp from the critically-acclaimed Third Rail Projects.  This world premiere production is specifically designed to dovetail neatly with playwright Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, which story is also set in the 17th century.

Third Rail Projects were taken by Brittany Diliberto

Third Rail Projects performs around the world in site-specific settings and, from what I was told by a woman who came down from New York just for opening night, the ticket prices in NYC are nearly triple and as scarce as hen’s teeth.  Described by the creators as a multi-sensory dance and theater performance and defined as immersive/experiential theater, it is held in the private Paster and Sedgewick-Bond Reading Rooms, areas of the Library that are usually off-limits.

The backdrop is an 17th century banquet in all its opulent and decadent splendor – no you don’t get to dine on swans, peacocks, croquembouche and other referenced delicacies – but you will experience the lusty performances of a troupe garbed in period finery expressing their amours for food (and their dining partners!) through dance and mime.  Overeating is expressed with humor as are the jealousies and erotic fantasies of the royal courtiers.

Third Rail Projects were taken by Brittany Diliberto

You will learn that there really were such preparations as four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie and such things as the weight, or more specifically the measure, of a man in pounds of sugar.  These luxuries came at a great price to those who had to produce these extravagant fêtes, exposing the great disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.  You will experience what it must have been like to watch from afar as the lower classes were had to observe these events from the upper galleries.

Third Rail Projects were taken by Brittany Diliberto

Banquets during this period were so lavish and lengthy that they went on for days with guests passing out or vomiting only to start all over again.   The troupe of five also reveal some of the theories and philosophies that were popular in those times – especially the sharing of food and the definition of manliness.

Guests, or should I say participants because you will be led in small groups by costumed guides, will wend their way through velvet curtains to candlelit rooms.  There you will see indescribable displays of pastries, watch Baroque period dancing, or hear challenging debates.  You may even be encouraged to make decisions as a group.  Some of the dances are passionate and fantasy-filled, others are celebratory and playful.  In all, it is the ultimate grande bouffe with you as witness.

Third Rail Projects were taken by Brittany Diliberto

Be sure to leave plenty of time beforehand to tour the First Chefs exhibit and put you in the mood for this splendid evening.  And remember to eat before you go.  The feast is imaginary.

Immensely entertaining.

Performed by Elizabeth Carena, Alberto Denis, Joshua Dutton-Reaver, Justin Lynch and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus.  Written, conceived, directed and choreographed by Zach Morris; Co-directed by Tom Pearson; Artistic Director, Jennine Willett; Sound Design by Sean Hagerty; Costume Design by Karen Young; and Scenic Design by Dan Daly.

Through March 24th at the Folger Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003.   For tickets and information call 202 544.7077 or visit www.Folger.edu/theatre. www.ThirdRailProjects.com

Eugene Onegin ~ The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
March 9, 2019 

Anna Nechaeva is wowing audiences in her Washington National Opera debut.  Nechaeva, in the role of Tatiana, hails from Moscow as do several of her leading cast members – Alexey Dolgov as Lensky of the dulcet tenor voice, Igor Glovatenko as Onegin, and Elena Zaremba as Madame Larina.  So, it was no surprise that the theater was crawling with Russians who were thrilled to pieces at seeing so much extraordinary Russian talent on an American stage.  A few Americans completed the leads with mezzo-soprano Victoria Livengood as Filippyevna, and the marvelous mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann in the role of Olga.

Bolshoi opera star Anna Nechaeva makes her US debut ~ Photo credit Scott Suchman

Eugene Onegin, with its beautiful harmonies, dissonance and emotional fervor, hasn’t been produced at the Kennedy Center in 30 years.  It was an unusual opera for its time, composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and based on one of the great works of Russian literature by Alexander Pushkin.  In 19th C Russia operas predominantly followed the European model, restricting productions to Italian operas.  This was in the early days of Romanticism that had derived from Western civilization.  Later Realism appeared which championed creativity and the Arts.  Tchaikovsky blended the two to create a new dynamic that had never been heard.

Bolshoi Opera star Igor Golovatenko makes his US debut ~ Photo credit Scott Suchman

You can feel the great emotionalism in this opera.  These are real people in real life situations.  The stories are familiar and as close to a soap opera as you might imagine, yet they are secondary to the universal emotions of the characters, many of whom reflect the lives of both Tchaikovsky and Pushkin who was considered the greatest Russian poet.  Pushkin himself died in a duel as does Lensky and the exquisite aria before the duel references Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

The set design is the original minimalistic 1990’s set from the Metropolitan Opera.  Changing lighting reflects the time of day, birch trees give a nod to an iconic Russian tree, and autumn leaves show it is harvest season.  The dramatic opening in which Onegin appears to be floating above the stage in a pool of white light against a deep blue background, brings to mind the surrealistic paintings of René Magritte or Salvador Dali.   The lights soon brighten to a golden hue to reveal a stage covered with falling autumn leaves that show the older ladies singing of their satisfaction in the pleasures of domesticity.  “Heaven sends us habit in place of happiness,” they agree.

Filippyevna (Victoria Livengood) and Madame Larina (Elena Zaremba) share memories of their youth ~ Photo Scott Suchman

As the sisters, Olga and Tatiana, vie for Onegin’s love, Tatiana breaks down and writes him a letter pouring out her love for him.  This is one of her most glorious arias, as she vacillates between pure love and the torment of a love that cannot be requited.  Tchaikovsky’s music so incredibly portrays this duality of emotions.  By incorporating Russian folk music against the grand themes of royal cotillions and military-inspired nationalistic music, he captures the emotional emptiness of high society.

Lensky (tenor Alexey Dolgov) confesses his love to Olga (mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann) ~ Photo credit Scott Suchman

Three artists from the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program perform.  They are Samuel J. Weiser as Captain; Joshua Blue as Monsieur Triquet; and Joshua Conyers as Zaretsky.  Eric Halfvarson plays Gremin.  With the Washington National Opera Orchestra, WNO Chorus, and WNO dancers.

Peasants delight after harvesting fall crops ~ Photo credit Scott Suchman

Directed by Peter McClintock with Original Production by Robert Carson.  Conducted by Robert Trevino in his WNO debut. Trevino will go on to be Principal Conductor of Malmö Symphony Orchestra.  Lighting Design by Christine Binder; Set and Costume Design by Michael Levine; Choreography by Serge Bennathan; and Hair and Makeup by David C. Zimmerman.

Highly recommended.

Performances are March 17th matinee, March 20th, 23rd, 25th and 29th 2019.  In the Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

Vanity Fair ~ Shakespeare Theatre Company

Jordan Wright
March 7, 2019 

“There are no morals here.”  So, buckle up.  Kate Hamill’s uproarious comedy delivers a bloomers-up package from the get-go, cribbing from William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel of social climbers.

The Cast ~ Photo credit Scott Suchman

Dan Hiatt plays the ‘Manager’, emcee of the Strand Music Hall where vaudeville has found a new and popular audience with Victorian burlesque.  The characters are introduced to the audience as actors, though they become other characters willy-nilly.  Little Becky Sharp, an orphan of sharp tongue and keen wit, is preparing to leave the Pinkerton Academy and assume her position as a nanny in the home of a lecherous baron, but not before she sticks it to the headmistress in a snarky farewell that shows her rebelliousness.  Before shoving off, Becky and her well-heeled bestie, Amelia Sedley, promise they will be BFF’s forever.

Anthony Michael Lopez as Miss Pinkerton and Vincent Randazzo as Miss Jemima in Vanity Fair by Scott Suchman. Photo credit by Scott Suchman.

But to what end?  As the Manager asks of the audience, “Do we really mean it when we say we will always be best friends forever?”  Here friendships are challenged, ladies are as cavalier as the men, and marrying up the ladder is the goal.  A dinner party cleverly lit in freeze frames shows how reckless in relationships they all are.  “Licentiousness is the wicked world of the theater,” we are warned.  Are we active players in the plot or are we just spectators of a play?

Rebekah Brockman as Becky Sharp and Maribel Martinez as Amelia Sedley in Vanity Fair by Scott Suchman. Photo credit by Scott Suchman.

Lines are blurred, both in character portrayals and devious intent (men in drag, cutouts, and puppets figure into this small but mighty cast), and you can’t be assured of anyone’s motives when fortunes are won and lost, and everyone is chasing the money.  For this social set cuckolding is the norm, and one person’s misfortunes are fodder for another’s devious gain.  “Fortunes change and loyalties follow,” quoth the Manager.  Lucky us, we have all the fun watching these topsy-turvy machinations.

Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan as Lesser Pit, Vincent Randazzo as Sir Pitt and Anthony Michael Lopez as Rose Crawley in Vanity Fair. Photo credit by Scott Suchman.

I’ll admit, for the first five minutes in, I had no earthly idea where this comedy was going.  And by the end, I had no idea where it had taken me.  One minute they play it straight by addressing the audience, and the next it seems like a hilarious farce.  No matter.  It’s a madcap romp that will keep you in stitches.

Rebekah Brockman as Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair. Photo credit by Scott Suchman.

Rebekah Brockman plays Becky with a delightfully devilish air.  Her intrinsic appeal is that she has the ability to morph into a sympathetic character as speedily as one who holds all the cards.  Cheers to Maribel Martinez as Amelia Sedley who has to make a total turnaround in character when she discovers true love has been staring her right in the eye, and to Dan Hiatt, as the Manager, plus Miss Matilda and Lord Steyne, who alters his gender like a chameleon changes color.

The cast of Vanity Fair. Photo credit by Scott Suchman.

Additional cast members – Alyssa Wilmoth as Actor Four (George, etc.); Anthony Michael Lopez as Actor Three (Dobbin, etc.); Adam Magill as Actor Two (Rawdon, etc.) and Vincent Randazzo as Actor Five (Jos, etc.).

Directed by Jessica Stone, Sets by Alexander Dodge, Costumes by Jennifer Moeller, Lighting by David Weiner, Choreographed by Connor GallagherJane Shaw Sound Designer and Composer.

Through March 31st at the Lansburgh Theatre, 450 7th Street, NW Washington, DC 20004.  For tickets and information call 202 547-1122 or visit www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.

Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ February 2019

Jordan Wright
February 2019

Flower Child ~ Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill ~ CHIKO ~ Izakaya Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar ~ Sen Khao ~ Mama Chang

February usually slows down a bit around here, but not this year.  Ignoring the usual dire winter weather forecasts (“One inch of snow forecast for our area!  Beware!”), new restaurants flung open their doors, and food events covered the landscape like swirling snowflakes.

With internationally-known chefs flocking to our area and East Coast chefs bypassing New York and Philadelphia to open outposts in our area, my hamster wheel is in full-on high-speed mode trying to keep up with all the excitement.

Flower Child

Wall mural of the iconic British model, Twiggy

This fast-casual spot from restaurateur Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts www.FoxRC.com out of Arizona, is right on trend.  Plugging itself as “Healthy food for a happy world”, it offers bowl-style dishes along with grass-fed steak wraps, grilled sustainable salmon, kombucha on tap, herbal teas – iced or hot – organic coffee, and freshly squeezed juices.

The cheery, hippie-inspired, quick-order spot has plenty of gluten-free and vegan options with salads and wraps galore and, of course, the ubiquitous avocado toast – this version served with a poached egg on top.  Grains, nuts, and seeds add to the nutritious and delicious combos.  Expect to find kale and roasted cauliflower in starring roles.

The super friendly line cooks ~ Avocado Toast ~ Coconut water

Wine and beer are organic, but if you’re sticking to non-alcoholic try the coconut water served in a coconut.  Unlike the boxed version, this has an unmistakable island-fresh taste.

Vietnamese Crunch Salad ~ Indian Spiced Cauliflower with tofu

Breakfast starts at 8am and is guaranteed to start you off on the right foot.  Two faves:  Supergrain Oatmeal with warm date compote, bananas, toasted pecans and Greek yogurt or opt for the Blueberry Açai Toast with banana, Greek yogurt, sprouted almond, toasted coconut, flax seeds, oats and honey.

Ready to hit the gym?  Let’s go!

Flower Child is located at 2112 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20037 – Open from 8am till 9pm.  www.IamAFlowerChild.com.

Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill

The former Sea Catch opened last summer as Dyllan’s Raw Bar Grill.  Perched alongside the historic C&O Canal in the heart of Georgetown, it is now owned by Donald and Amy Carlin of Good Apple Hospitality.  Don is a former restaurant conceptualist for Stephen Starr who created Starr’s award-winning  restaurants and traveled the world selecting decorative antiques and collectibles for such restaurants as Le Diplomate.  Two experienced chefs, Executive Chef Neal Corman and Chef de Cuisine Darren Hendry, helm the kitchen and its predilection for seafood, both raw and cooked.  Oysters are from East and West coasts and fish is either tinned or sustainably caught.

Grilled King Salmon with ginger lime glaze ~ Ahi Tuna Tartare with Asian Guacamole and spicy fish roe

Before the weather proves more accommodating to canal-side dining, snag a table beside one of two fireplaces in the wood-beamed dining room and enjoy winter-themed cocktails crafted by Mixologist, Allison Boyd.  These drinks feature herbs and spices with house-made reductions and syrups.  The bar also offers a well-curated wine list of both New World and Old World wines from the major wine-producing regions of France, Italy, Chile, Uruguay and California.

Boyd’s winter libations include Fizz the Season made with cranberry reduction, Hayman’s sloe gin, Cappelletti aperitivo, Campari and fresh pomegranate seeds;the Georgetown Tea Party made with unsweetened iced tea, Sexton Irish whiskey, rosemary simple syrup, green chartreuse and a touch of lemon bitters, garnished with rosemary; and the To Be Peary made withBarr Hill honey vodka, pear purée, fresh mint leaves, grapefruit bitters and a splash of ginger beer. 

Oyster Stew ~ Oyster Stew

Want something to ward off the wintry chill? Try Somebody Sage Chocolate made with Italian wine, fresh sage leaves, warm bittersweet chocolate, honey, a dash of cinnamon and brandied cherry juice; C&O Cider made with apple cider, Traverse City bourbon, cranberry reduction, a dash of cinnamon and citrus;Yes, Jerez Hot Chocolate made with hot chocolate spiked with Brandy de Jerez, and topped with whipped cream; or Butter Conundrum made with Santa Teresa 1796 rum, warm spices, vanilla bean and maple syrup. Winter cocktails are available through March and are reasonably priced from $11 to $15 each.

A recent announcement reveals a series of exciting cooking and mixology classes – Cooking with Chef Darren.  Lead by Chef de Cuisine Darren Hendry, cooking enthusiasts will learn how to prepare some of Dyllan’s most popular dishes in the restaurant’s expansive prep kitchen. Classes are priced from $55 to $65 per person (all inclusive), and include a complimentary glass of red, white or sparkling wine, a welcome packet including a $10 gift certificate for a future visit, a Dyllan’s hat, and take-home recipe cards. Classes are limited to 10 attendees, keeping the experience friendly and relaxed.  Mixologist Allison Boyd will lead a series of cocktail and wine classes this spring. Beverage classes are priced from $35 to $45 per person (all inclusive) and include a flight, or wine, or two complimentary cocktails along with a collection of snacks and recipe cards with tasting notes. The complete list of cooking, wine and mixology classes are listed below.

Date Night – Craft Cocktails on Wednesday, March 13th and Wednesday, May 15th  from 7pm. to 9pm.  Part intuition, part science, Dyllan’s beverage team, led by Mixologist Allison Boyd, will share how to build the perfect craft cocktail.  Attendees can expect both learning and fun.  Tickets are priced at $35 per person, and can be purchased online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/date-night-a-craft-cocktail-class-tickets-55768761868?aff=ebapi.

  • Shellfish Shucking on Sunday, March 24th and Sunday, May 19th from 4pm to 6pm.  Teaching the true technique to open the hard-shell beauties, participants will learn how to prepare shellfish for consumption, along with the differences between the East and West Coast oysters and clams.  Guests will also learn to make the popular condiments, including cocktail sauce and mignonette.  Tickets are priced at $55 per person, which includes a complimentary selection of 12 oysters, and can be purchased online at:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/learn-to-shuck-tickets-55769405794?aff=ebapi
  • Wine Pairing on Wednesday, April 17th and Wednesday, June 12th from 7pm to 9pm.  Wine lovers will learn to swirl, sniff, sip, and savor wine in a scientific way as Dyllan’s beverage team, led by Mixologist Allison Boyd, by will teach guests how to read a wine list, understand flavor profiles and how to pair wine with food.  Attendees can look forward to a selection of Dyllan’s signature dishes perfectly paired to the featured wine and receive take-home tasting notes.  Tickets are priced at $45 per person, and can be purchased online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wine-pairing-wednesday-tickets-55844905616?aff=erellivmlt.  

Dyllan’s is located in Georgetown at 1054 31st Street, NW, Washington, DC 22207 https://dyllansrawbargrill.com

A Quartet of Asian Hot Spots  ~ CHIKO, Sen Khao, Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar, and Peter Chang’s Latest Venture, Mama Chang

CHIKO

CHIKO in Barracks Row

Casual is an understatement to describe CHIKO, Scott Drewno’s Barracks Row experiment in Chinese/Korean fusion cuisine.  Since leaving the now-shuttered The Source, Drewno has focused his attentions on experimentation using his many years of experience preparing Asian cuisine under Wolfgang Puck.  The tiny spot has five stools overlooking the open kitchen and a smattering of picnic-style benches with tables. We stopped in during Chinese New Year to try his version of Chinese roast duck.  Alas, there was some confusion over assuring the duck would be available and some promises it will be on the regular menu in future.

CHIKO

Though the website offers two separate seatings for dinner, reservations seem unnecessary as long as you arrive early.  We got there at 5pm when they opened and there was no wait, though we witnessed streams of customers picking up pre-ordered takeout.

The ‘Full Monty’ ~ Smashed Salmon ~ Cumin Lamb Stir Fry

We enjoyed several dishes from a menu subject to the chef’s whim.  Served in stainless steel bowls, we enjoyed the Cumin Lamb Stir Fry with wheat flour noodles and caramelized shallots, and Smashed Salmon with black bean butter, wild mushrooms and peas.  Unlike most Korean restaurants serving small dishes gratis with each entrée, side dishes here are all á la carte.  You can order each one separately or try them all by ordering the ‘Full Monty’ which includes Napa Cabbage Kimchi, Sichuan Spicy Cucumbers, Turmeric Pickled Daikon, Potato and Egg Salad, Chilled Marinated Littleneck Clams and Steamed Rice with Furikake Butter – the latter being our favorite of the lot.

This spring the restaurant will begin an ‘After Dark’ series of late-night guest chefs who, for one night only, will create new cocktails and signature dishes. The events will feature such chefs as Edward Lee, host of the PBS Mind of a Chef series and culinary director of Succotash with locations in National Harbor and Penn Quarter; and Carlie Steiner and Kevin Tien, co-owners of Himitsu. Check the website for dates.

CHIKO is located at 423 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20004.  www.CHIKODC.com

Opens at 5pm.

Sen Khao

Sen Khao at Tyson’s Galleria

Sen Khao is the latest endeavor by Chef Seng Luangrath who also runs the wildly popular Thip Khao in DC and Padaek in Falls Church for Lao and Thai cuisine. Thanks to her efforts and advancement of the Lao food movement’s outreach, interest in Laotian food has continued to flourish in our area. Recently, Luangrath opened Sen Khao – a small counter-order, no-waitstaff spot – in one of the spaces formerly occupied by Mike Isabella’s food hall in Tyson’s Corner Galleria.

Chuenh Gai – crispy boneless chicken with coconut rice and pickled vegetables ~ Khao Piaka

For those of you who live in the area or, like me, who travel there to shop, it’s a fine place to experience Lao food without the lines at Thip Khao.  It is a spicy cuisine, which I like, but they will ask you what your spice level preference is, and you can certainly tone it down if you prefer.  For those who want to kick up the Scovill-level further, there is a condiment bar.

Sen Khao is located at 2001 International Drive, at Tyson’s Galleria Top Floor, McLean, VA 2210. www.SenKhao.com

Izakaya Khan

In a small, non-descript strip mall in Annandale is Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar.  Predominantly a hangout for young Asian hipsters, it’s known for cocktails, karaoke and a late-night crowd.  We got there during a snow storm around 6pm and it was fairly empty.

Pineapple & Coconut cocktail in a pouch ~ Vegetable gyoza

Vegetable gyoza, tonkatsu ramen with tofu and tteokbokki, a Korean stew made with chewy, tube-shaped rice cakes; green onions; and a topping of mozzarella cheese in a ridiculously spicy gochujang sauce that’s heavy on the gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes).  You’ll need a few of their craft cocktails to chase down the fiery impact. Mine was served in a pouch festively lit with LED ice cubes.

Tonkatsu ramen with fried tofu and hiziki ~ Budae Jjigae

Khan Japanese Kitchen & Bar is located at Seoul Plaza Shopping Center, 4231 Markham Street, Annandale, VA 22003 – It is open from 5pm till 2am.

Mama Chang’s

Peter enjoys a lighthearted moment with family and crew – Mama Chang stands to his left with his daughter beside her.

As Peter Chang continues to expand his culinary presence, he has returned to his roots with Mama Chang.  Last night I visited Peter’s latest location in Fairfax City and thrilled to a dozen different dishes that barely scratched the surface of an extensive menu.  ‘Changians’, named for his diehard fans, were out in force since Fairfax is where the Chinese chef began his new life after leaving the Chinese Embassy.  In those early days Peter was cooking undercover in different restaurants around Virginia and people who knew of his reputation followed him through a loosely organized underground network.

Since then, he has created a burgeoning empire of restaurants that reflect his many years of experience in the preparation of regional, authentic Chinese cooking.  This newest venture, steeped in traditional Hunan and Szechawan cuisine, pays tribute to the Chang women and reflects the heritage, home-style recipes from his mother, grandmother, his world-famous pastry chef wife, Lisa, and his daughter, Lydia.

Peter Chang preparing the fish balls for opening night guests ~ Roast duck ~ Opening night friends and family enjoy the spicy cauliflower

Some of his signature dishes are Smoked and Cured Platter with Smoked Chicken, Smoked Sausage, Cured Fish, and Sweet and Sour Pickled Cabbage, Stir Fried Braised Pork Belly with Deep Fried Green Pepper, and Tea Braised Egg Pork Belly Stew with Bean Curd.  I will report back after a return visit to experience some of the other dishes in this modern, light-filled spot designed by notable DC architects, the Nahra Design Group.  Looking forward to sampling the hot pots, noodle dishes and the upcoming debut of dim sum brunch.

Mama Chang is located on 3251 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22030.  www.MamaChang.com