Aquavit and gravlax in a cool, chandeliered Petworth lounge.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

In the middle of a neighborhood known primarily for chicken joints, this Eastern European/Scandinavian restaurant owned by an Asian-American and with an African-American at the helm of the kitchen speaks to the multicultural promise of the city. Few restaurants are as fascinating. From the cement floors and crystal chandeliers to the mix of sandal-clad urbanites and white-haired suburbanites, Domku makes you think its incongruities are natural and inevitable.

What makes the place more than a curiosity is the quality of its cooking. Gravlax shows up in a variety of forms–in a tasty sandwich with cream cheese, in a twist on eggs Benedict, and in a cold platter that includes salmon roe, cornichons, and diced red onion. There's pickled herring and a plate of smoked sprats, both begging to be washed down with any of ten house-made aquavits.

Chef Eric Evans spent his formative years in Norway, and his plates have a relaxed simplicity that makes them seem less like restaurant food than good home cooking. With one notable exception: The chef practices strict portion control. These are, for the most part, small plates masquerading as big ones.

Mussels steamed in a rich, aquavit-spiked cream and laden with shallots are worth a trip all by themselves. Pierogi, stuffed with two different fillings, are light and supple. Swedish meatballs are buoyed by a light gravy and whipped potatoes that, for all their butter and cream, are fluffy. This propensity for lightening heavy traditional fare vanishes at brunch. The Norwegian pancake is properly eggy, and Finnish buttermilk cheese, a mound of sweetened house-made cheese, is gloriously rich

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