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Nibbles and Sips Around Town ~ July 2018

Jordan Wright
July 2018
Photo credit - Jordan Wright

Chlöe Heralds Haidar Karoum’s First Solo Restaurant; Pineapple and Pearls Twee Dining; Lupo Marino – A Taste of the Amalfi Coast; Pow Pow Caters to Vegetarians on H Street; Pappe Celebrates the Dishes of Northern India; Marib – Yemeni Classics in a White-Tablecloth Restaurant

Chlöe

Seating at the open kitchen - The lively bar scene

As co-owner of the Asian-inspired Doi Moi, Lebanese-born Karoum has devised a melding of the many profiles of Southeast Asian cuisine to great effect in a sleek, lively space in the heart of Logan Square.  Earlier this year he opened Restaurant Chlöe by Haidar Karoum on Fourth Street in the booming Washington Navy Yard neighborhood.  This globally-inspired cuisine lets Chef/Owner Karoum incorporate his past experiences cooking Spanish, Modern American and Asian dishes to their best effect.  A recent dinner there convinced us that he has achieved that confluence of diverse cultures with aplomb as he dreams up new and enticing combinations.

Chef Haidar Karoum

We began with Broiled Local Oysters, which may sound a bit pedestrian, but achieves elevated status with a Hollandaise-like sauce spiked with horseradish in one of the most alluring presentations – sitting atop multi-colored pebbles on a shiny rectangular tray.  My advice: Order several of these.  After that we allowed ourselves to be guided by our waiter who suggested the Green Papaya Salad with green beans, tomatoes and peanuts and dried shrimp in a tamarind dressing.  It encompasses all the elements of sweet, crunchy, tangy and vivacious while still being as light as a feather.

Green papaya salad ~ Broiled local oysters with horseradish cream

The Caramelized Cauliflower will prove a beacon to cauliflower lovers.  This Mediterranean-inspired dish is pinged with tahini, mint, garlic and toasted pine nuts for a smooth, fire-roasted result.

Caramelized cauliflower

Entrées are a suggested share and we complied by ordering the chef’s signature dish – Spice Roasted Chicken.  Drawing from his Asian textbook, Karoum interprets it as a Vietnamese preparation that finds the golden-crusted half chicken paired with a side of sticky rice and fresh Asian greens accompanied by a lively chili and lime dipping sauce.

Vietnamese spice roasted chicken

The cocktail menu is just as intriguing.  Of particular note was “Carabao Kick” made with Edinburgh Gin, calamansi (this tiny citrus fruit, aka calamondin, is trending like mad), lime and tamarind syrup.  Or opt for the summer refresher, “Classic Coconut Daiquiri”, whose status derives from a 12-year old Flor De Cana Rum blended with lime, pandan syrup and coconut water.  An extensive wine list features affordable bottles carefully selected to pair perfectly with this unique and varied cuisine.

Chlöe by Haidar Karoum is located at 1331 4th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003 – 202.313.7007  www.restaurantchloe.com

Pineapple and Pearls

I don’t know what to make of the name of Aaron Silverman’s second Barracks Row restaurant.  Chef/owners seem to favor incorporating their grandmother’s, wife’s or children’s names.  Nonetheless, Silverman has got the Midas touch, if not in gold then certainly in pearls.  After all, he raised $1M in less than a year to launch Pineapple and Pearls, his latest endeavor.  Rose’s Luxury, which opened in 2013, is the chef’s first DC-based restaurant and, if the lines down the block are any indication, he has garnered a loyal following along with the multiple industry kudos he has received.

Silverman, who was raised in Bethesda, worked under Jonathan Krinn at the posh 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church before moving to Charleston, SC to work with Sean Brock at McGrady’s.  (Did you hear Sean Brock is leaving Charleston?!)  After returning to DC in 2011, he took time out to plot his next move… and it turned out to be a mad success.  Rose’s Luxury was named Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurant in the Country”.  It’s no wonder backers were willing to finance his next project.

Pineapple and Pearls has been the beneficiary of so much laudatory press you’d think you were at the feet of the great Escoffier himself.  That we chose the “Summer Bar Menu” at $150.00 sans alcohol (we did order a cocktail and glass of wine each) might have been a mistake.  It was certainly not the full court press guests in the main dining room were experiencing.  And though the food and presentation were creative, it was ultimately unsatisfying – all eight bites of it on a skinny barstool.

Foie Gras Nigiri ~ Summer squash tart

We began with a miniscule Summer Squash Tart with poppy seeds and ramp cream served on a stunning Christian LaCroix plate decorated with painted butterflies and crickets.  The little tart was followed by Fois Gras Nigiri, easily my favorite bite of the night.  Well, fois gras being that lusciously melty clump of pure goose liver fat, how could you go wrong?  That the single bite was purported to be prepared with Morita chiles and vegetable caramel, went unnoticed.  The unusual plate did not.  A Japanese anime line drawing of a dashing long-haired young dandy was centered on the two bits of foie gras appearing as though he was tossing the liver onto the plate.  It tasted as though it was sautéed in butter with a slight sweetness and that was just fine.  Just so you know, the food photos reflect portions for two diners – not one.

Smoked Potato & Date Agnolotti

Next at bat was Smoked Potato and Date Agnolotti with Robiola Bosina cream – a soft, mushroomy, Piemontese cheese – and wild rose vinegar.  Rustically presented and hidden beneath large leaves (basil?), the duet of walnut-sized agnolotti was light, tender, herbaceous and creamy.  I could have done with a large plate of this and been on my merry way.

House-Nixtamalized Corn Tortillas

Tortillas and tacos have wriggled their way onto every menu these days and this one was no exception. Two tacos the size of a beer coaster – one was duck croquette (Yes! A French taco!) with fig and juniper mole, the other, salmon boudin with basil salsa verde and kohlrabi cortido.  The duck was fiercely spicy.  Did I mention I love spicy?  This one burned the palate in its single bite.  The salmon, however, was as mild as expected.

Roasted Alina Duck

Here’s where things went horribly wrong.  The next “course” was beef filet and from the first bite it was unutterably over-salted.  I imagined it had been sitting in the ocean for a week or so.  Ditto for my companion’s.  Since it was completely inedible I asked to see our server.  I explained about the salt and asked the chef to taste it.  I was told the kitchen would substitute it for duck.  Very amenable.  When the manager came out with the duck, I asked if the kitchen had tasted the beef and What did they think?  He told me they hadn’t tasted it, but it had been salted by two different cooks, which upon later reflection, did not hold up.  The salt was not only on the outside, but throughout the meat.  Ditto for the ensuing duck, though by then we didn’t want to make another fuss.

Dessert was a small Coconut Tartufo enrobed in chocolate and Amareno cherries. The dessert was reminiscent of little ice cream bon bons.  Remember those?  All in all, the service was fantastic, the cocktails exquisite and the presentation super creative.

Red Bird cocktail

But, to gauge the restaurant’s cuisine, and do it justice, you’ll have to go the way of the full-on, 12-course tasting menu at $400.00 which is the only way dinner service is offered.  Maybe then you won’t go home hungry.

Pineapple and Pearls is located at 715 8th Street, SE, Washington, DC   202.595.7375  www.PineappleandPearls.com

Lupo Marino

Lupo Marino’s honey and blue dining room


Lupo Marino is one of the latest restaurants on DC’s fabulous District Wharf.  It’s the third restaurant by the team who brought you Lupo Verde and Lupo Osteria.  And you know how much I adore Lupo Verde.

Fair Warning:  It does not have a water view like many of the higher priced establishments which makes it way more affordable.  If it’s water view you want, take a stroll alongside the docks before or after dining.  This casual chic spot with a seaside décor is tucked away in one of the narrow side streets just off the cobblestone walkway.  It reminds me of the cozy ristorantes found in any piccolo villaggio en Italia where mamma and nonna are in the cucina and papà is a pescatore who brings in the fish fresh every afternoon.  In Italy, people go wherever the food is good and when it’s as good as this, it really only matters whom you’re breaking bread with.

The restaurant defines itself as Italian street food.  That said, we planned to take clear advantage of the fresh seafood specialties. But if you opt for pizzas, they are prepared in a handcrafted Marra Forni pizza oven that cooks your pizza at 900-degrees in three minutes.

The Marra Forni pizza oven

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen pasta or salad nor many of these dishes sold on the streets of Italy, so I can’t intuit why they call this “street food”.  It’s more akin to what you’d find in a wine bar – a very good wine bar – in Italy.  And speaking of vino, there are over 100 Italian wines to choose from!

Piccolina Spritz ~ Toto cocktail

In any case, what we did have I’d highly recommend.  Adorned with watermelon radish and fennel pollen, which lends a hint of anise, Tuna Carpaccio arrived drizzled with truffle vinaigrette speckled with microgreens and sitting on crisp flatbread.  It was summer in a bite and most welcome on this scorching day.

 

Tuna Carpaccio

Next, we dove straight into a plate of Fritto Misto which was as divino as any I’ve enjoyed on the Amalfi Coast during many summers spent in Positano.  A light coating of batter rendered calamari, sardines (they’re in season right now) and head-on prawns (the only way to eat them!) delectable.

Fritto Misto

A fire-grilled lemon half and creamy aioli provided the perfect tangy balance to this signature taste of the Mediterranean.

Seafood Paccheri

The menu reveals four types of handmade pasta and each one is quite different.  This is not your grandma’s red sauce ristorante.  The ingredients are more intriguing.  We chose Spaghetti Verde with wild pork carbonara and cured egg yolk topped with pickled ramps and Paccheri – a wide tubular pasta that went perfectly with the rich saffron broth, blue crab and shrimp.

Spaghetti Verde

Desserts are fairly predictable – tiramisu, espresso coffee bomb, and bombolini with nutella.  Stick with the gelati.

Be sure to check out the shelves against the backwall that feature many of the items used in the preparation of these dishes.  Snag some homemade pastas (especially the paccheri), EVOO, spreads, Italian sodas and the best canned tomatoes.

Lupo Marino is located at 40 Pearl Street, Washington, DC 20024.  www.LupoMarinoDC.com

Pow Pow

Tiger mural


Continuing with the Asian theme, which is ideal for hot summer nights, we found ourselves at Pow Pow, a small but popular vegetarian spot on H Street.  Close by the Atlas Performing Arts Center , this order-at-the-counter, eat-on-recyclable bowls joint caters to veggie lovers, and those who wouldn’t know it was vegetarian if they hadn’t been told.

Tokyo Roboto

When we arrived, we found the open kitchen active with hipsters rushing in to pick up their take away orders and others enjoying their dishes in the limited table space.  It’s a good choice for a pre-theatre bite if time is at a premium and/or you don’t want a sleep-inducing carb-attack during the show.

Purity bowl

The mock meat offerings are deceiving.  With so many warm spices and tangy sauces it’s hard to discern that the ribs are vegan, the chicken is plant-based, and the fried mozzarella sticks are made from cashews.

Taiwanese fried mozzarella

Even the Nutella in the Chimi Chimi Pow Pow dessert is dairy-free.  Though they call the menu vegetarian, I’m not sure I wouldn’t say it was vegan.  Just ask.  All I can say is that it’s a veggie-lover’s wet dream.

Pow Pow is located at 1253 H Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002 – 202.399.1364   www.eatpowpow.com.

Pappe

The busy dining room


A sliver of an Indian restaurant on 14th Street just above N Street is newcomer Pappe based on the authentic Northern Indian cuisine of New Delhi, with a few dishes from the Southern Indian region around Goa where vindaloo was invented.

Indian spice watermelon cocktail

The 85-seat restaurant has three owners Vipul Kapila, Sanjay Mandhaiya and Shankar Puthran, with Mandhaiya and Puthran Head Chefs.  The partners chose the name Pappe meaning ‘brother’ in Punjabi.  That’s how close they are.  As co-owner and co-chef of Pappe and Saffron in Ashburn, Mandhaiya brings a wealth of experience to the kitchen. Altogether they made the decision to celebrate their favorite dishes from home.  Curries like fiery Vindaloo; Palak with spinach, garlic ginger and tomato curry; Malabar, a coconut curry; and Korma made with cashews, mace, nutmeg and saffron.  Most of these are familiar to Western palates acquainted with Indian food – but these are nothing like the store-bought packaged meals, nor your dumbed down curries.  These renditions have personality and spark.

Lamb Korma

There are plenty of vegetarian options too.  Palak Paneer and Punjabi Aloo Gobi are familiar to many, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a dish I never knew – Baingan Bartha – a roasted eggplant dish with tomatoes.

Naan is one of those wonderful breads that can only be properly made in a woodfired oven.  There it takes on a smoky, crispy, doughy profile.  I like mine with garlic and herbs and plenty of butter.  Here you’ll find naan with green chiles and minced lamb and roti too.

Aloo Papdi Chaat

Two of us shared Aloo Papdi Chaat, Palak Paneer, garlic naan, Palaak with Cod and Chicken Pista Korma with a sauce of pistachio nuts.  We barely had room for sweet carrot pudding.  But for your sake, dear readers, we ordered it and were glad we did.

Carrot pudding

Over dinner I had a chance to chat with Kapila, a successful IT guy who shared his knowledge of the dishes and the specialty cocktails that are made from scratch and exotically spiced.  Kapila insisted I return for the super spicy Vindaloo, which he claims is the best outside of India.  I’m game.  Are you?

Pappe is located at 1317 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 – 202.888.8220  www.Pappe.com www.SaffronVA.com

Marib

We stumbled across Marib while eager to satisfy our Middle Eastern food cravings.  There are countless kabob spots in the burbs, but Yemeni?  Even Arab friends hadn’t heard of this place.  After two visits, I’m hooked.

Located in a strip mall in Springfield, we were pleasantly surprised to enter a large, off-the-radar, ethnic restaurant with uniformed waiters and white-tablecloth dining.  Most of the places in this area are ultra-casual and primarily dedicated to take away and catering.  Here tables have ample space between and the service is prompt and polite.  And though there are dishes that may be unfamiliar, servers are keen to answer any questions.

Shafout

Start with Shafout, described as a “chilled appetizer with layers of buttermilk, chopped almonds and walnuts, spring onions and mint leaves”.  This beautiful dish floats atop a flat bread called “lahoh” similar to the better known Ethiopian injera – though it seemed a cross between injera and pita.  Ruby red pomegranate seeds prove the perfect foil both for sweetness and lovely color against the cool green of the shafoutA handful of chopped lettuce, red onion, carrots and tomato lay perched in the center.  It is irresistible.

Lime cooler

Our server, Abdul, steered us towards the Lime Juice with Mint which is a typical Yemeni cooler.  It arrives at the table in a carafe frothy, citrusy and thirst quenching.  Add this to your order.  After dinner there is Yemeni coffee made with unroasted coffee husks and powdered ginger, or black tea with condensed milk and spices.  Both are uniquely warming.

Hummus with seared chicken, peppers and onions

On our second trip we had a party of six which allowed for more dishes to share.  This time we enjoyed the baba ganoush and hummus – each whipped to perfection and smooth as silk.  You can also order your hummus topped with seared meats (chicken, beef or lamb), peppers and onions.  It seems like a meal in itself, but don’t stop there.

Fahsa and Saltah

It’s an extensive menu with chicken, beef, lamb and shrimp all well represented.  Most of us went for the lamb prepared in many different ways.  Stewed with vegetables, slow cooked on the bone or shredded.  I chose haneeth both times.  Falling off the bone and served atop rice pilaf, it is meltingly tender and savory too with a myriad of spices from the marinade and accompanying sauce.  The stews, chockful of root vegetables, are equally as soul-stirring.  All the portions are large so plan on taking home leftovers which they are happy to box up.

Haneeth

Save room for dessert!  There are several that may seem unfamiliar but detailed descriptions are provided on the menu.  One of the most unusual combinations I have ever come across proved to be another two thumbs up.  Harking from the Arabian Peninsula, Areekah is made with tandoori bread, smashed bananas, fresh cream, ghee, cheddar cheese!!! and honey and topped with a sprinkling of nigella seeds.  You may wonder how on earth cheese could find its way into a dessert, but it does, and we were amazed at how creamy, tangy and delicious it is.

Areekah

Marib is located at 6981 Hechinger Drive, Springfield, VA 22151 - 703.376.3388  www.MaribRestaurant.com

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