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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 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.

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:

  • 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:
  • 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:  

Dyllan’s is located in Georgetown at 1054 31st Street, NW, Washington, DC 22207

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


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.


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.

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.

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.

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