Capitol Cuisine

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Wasn’t that a party!? Last month, acclaimed chef Kevin Tien unveiled Emilie’s ,his highly anticipated restaurant at 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Marking the debut was a lavish, festive reception. Wine flowed as samples of Tien’s New American cuisine circulated around the 70-seat space, created by Hapstak/Demetriou +. (The esteemed Washington DC group also designed Rose’s Luxury, Pineapple and Pearls and Little Pearl, among others.)

Born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, Kevin Tien, 32, learned to cook from his Vietnamese mother and grandmother. When asked about the restaurant’s name, he explained: “When my family first arrived in America, we met our uncle, who introduced us to American ways. His grandmother and daughter were named Emilie, and I wanted to honor them. It’s also the name of my fiancée, with a slightly different spelling.”

Before opening Petworth’s high-profile Himitsu (now rebranded as Pom Pom) in 2016, Tien honed his skills at Uchi, Oyamel, and Momofuku CCDC.

Among menu samples at Emilie’s festive opening reception was a dish of
spicy cavatelli with bread crumbs and mustard greens.

En route to a meeting, ANC Commissioner Chander Jayaraman (6B08), who chairs the ABC Committee, stopped by the party. “The open concept is fabulous,” he said. “It allows patrons to watch their meals from kitchen to table.” Also praising the open space was Patricia Catalano, mother of “The Hill is Home” author Maria Helena Carey. “It’s beautiful! I love the open kitchen!” 

The kitchen was hopping, as a slew of cooks deftly prepared samples of spicy cavatelli with bread crumbs and mustard greens, beef tartare with crab fat mustard, and sweet potatoes with pumpkin seed mole. Dollops of caviar and crème fraiche were perched on Ritz crackers. Pouring a lovely French Gamay rosé  –and other vintages–was Wine Director Alaina Dyne.

Tien and his team are planning an eclectic menu. But we do know that roving carts will be NOT ferry the usual dim sum. Instead, diners may pluck plates of fresh-shucked oysters, house-made tofu topped with crab, family-style platters with meat or whole fish, condiments, home-baked bread and other victuals. Emilie’s serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday. For more information visit www.emiliesdc.com.

Wine Director Alaina Dyne was busy pouring lovely wines at Emilie’s opening reception.

New
Gina Chersevani, proprietor of the Buffalo and Bergen soda shop inside Union Market, has unveiled Last Call, 1301-A Fourth St. NE, just outside the Market. Her downhome, 45-seat watering hole slid into a 1940s-era cafeteria space that had been vacant for years.

Coming Soon
Brianna Keefe, founder of Toastique shops at the District Wharf and in Old Town (Alexandria), is unveiling a fast-casual salad bar, also located at the Wharf.  Chopsmith should arrive in January at 11 District Square, SW. The menu will showcase soups, sandwiches, salads, steaks, Spanish-style salad Nicoise with chorizo and potatoes spiked with smoked paprika.

Star Power
Congrats to local restaurants who’ve earned a Michelin star for the first time: Middle Eastern-focused Maydan (U Street corridor); Gravitas, Matt Baker’s Mid-Atlantic tasting room in Ivy City; Little Pearl, the café-by-day and wine bar-by night spinoff of Aaron Silverman’s Pineapple and Pearls (Capitol Hill), and Sushi Nakazawa, the downtown omakase destination.

Dining for Health Care
In the Atlas District, Simone Jacobson, co-owner of the Burmese hot spot Thamee, believes the American healthcare system “is broken.” She doesn’t believe her employees can afford to wait for legislators to fix it. Therefore, her restaurant has added a 4 percent “wellness provision” to customer bills along with a short explanation. The extra charge covers health, dental, and vision insurance for all employees who work at least 30 hours a week. Money left over after insurance costs is equally redistributed to all workers regardless of hours worked. Employees may then use that money to pursue their own health care.  

We like this idea, so we joined friends there for dinner recently. Thamee’s host placed our group of six at the L-shaped counter, which worked very well, since we could converse easily and share our dishes: Deep fried shrimp and butlee (Burmese squash); Mohinga (the Burmese national dish of catfish curry with noodles and a chickpea cracker); pork belly with pickled mango, and exotic tropical cocktails. Jacobson co-owns Thamee with chef Jocelyn Law-Yone (her mother) and Eric Wang. Located at 1320 H St. NE, Thamee is open nightly except Tuesday when it’s closed all day. There’s also Sunday brunch. Call 202-750-6529 or visit www.thamee.com.

At the Atlas District’s nicely appointed Thamee, co-owner Simone Jacobson has added a “wellness provision” to customer bills.

Milestones
Belga Café, Barracks Row’s charming Belgian outpost at 514 Eighth St. SE, celebrates its 15th year of serving chef Bart Vandaele’s delicious mussels and other Belgian specialties at 514 Eighth St. SE. Open daily; call 202-544-0100 or visit www.belgacafe.com.

And…The Dubliner, the venerable Irish pub near Union Station, is marking its 45th birthday with a major facelift. Renovations include expanded seating and an enclosed patio. Founded in 1974 by Danny Coleman, the Dubliner claims a storied history, including a presidential visit; Barack Obama stopped by for St. Patrick’s Day in 2012. Located at 4 F St. NW, the Dubliner is open daily. Speaking of long-lived Irish bars, hunkered next door is 40-year-old Kelly’s Irish Times. Located at 14 F St. NW, Kelly’s is also open daily; call 202-543-5433.

Turkey Time
As always, La Plaza, 629 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, will serve dinner all day on Thanksgiving Day, November 28. For reservations, call 202-546-9512 or visit www.laplazadc.com.

Gone
The Outsider, a cocktail bar serving Japanese-style meat skewers and rice balls, has closed its doors at 1359 H Street NE. Sources say the owners are looking to reopen in another location. Stay tuned….Al’s Gourmet Pizza, which served and delivered pies from 1382 East Capitol St. NE seemingly forever, has departed. When Peter and I lived at Ninth and East Capitol decades ago, we were regular customers. Back then, Al’s was about the only pizza place in our neighborhood.