First impressions of three restaurants with fresh talent in the kitchen.
When Sally’s Middle Name shuttered on H Street in March, chef/co-owner Sam Adkins quietly joined Erik Bruner-Yang at the Maketto restaurateur’s hospitality group. Adkins’s first task as a corporate chef: a refresh of the menu at Brothers and Sisters in the Line DC hotel.
The cavernous lobby feels a world away from tiny Sally’s, but a plate of fried chicken, an Adkins signature, brings back memories. Served tonkatsu-style with herb-cabbage slaw, it’s one of the best dishes here.
Bruner-Yang says he and Adkins share a philosophy: “We cook what feels most natural to us. We don’t have a lot of rules.” Hence a menu on which Thai-style hamachi crudo sits alongside crunchy potato pancakes topped with creamy smoked fish and dill that would make a Jewish grandmother proud. (Both have deliciousness in common.) Adkins’s zingy green curry also makes a welcome comeback—our only quibble is that the plate, heaped with too-large hunks of squash, rice, and herbs, could use much more. One constant: Pichet Ong’s layer cakes. We’d devour a Thai-inspired coconut wedge alongside the Earl Grey–infused London cake any day. 1770 Euclid St., NW. Expensive.
Pom Pom feels like an antidote to pessimistic times. Petworth’s spunky, female-driven restaurant is set with iridescent flatware. Wines are women-made. A sign reading feminist af sits by the open kitchen.
The dining room is a reboot of Himitsu, whose chef, Kevin Tien, left in September. Cofounder Carlie Steiner stayed, hiring Doi Moi alum Amanda Moll. Still, the space—and Steiner’s excellent cocktails—feels familiar. Take the salted sherry-watermelon Lizzo: fittingly good as hell.
But Pom Pom isn’t trying to be the award magnet Himitsu became. “What we wanted was a whimsical, fun, and flirtatious restaurant where everyone is having a good time,” Steiner says. The menu leans Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern. There are some beginner stumbles, and not at beginner prices. Take an over-salted $24 Wagyu-and-beet tartare. A $59 half duck with sublime coconut rice is worth the splurge, save for an overpowering carrot kimchee. A hamachi crudo with pops of pomegranate is an enviable staple. Same for the tahdig: The caramelized rice with eggplant and shallots is a modest $12 and, like much about Pom Pom, brings joy. 828 Upshur St., NW. Expensive.
This all-day spot in Del Ray—expanding to Chevy Chase and Capitol Hill—has gone through some changes over the three years it’s been in business. Original chef/baker Nathan Hatfield departed in 2017; in February, James Duke took over the kitchen.
Show up in the morning and you’ll find that the once-bountiful array of pastries has been edited down, though you’ll still happily find the everything-spice croissant. Later in the day, Duke rolls out sandwiches, quinoa bowls, and salads. We dug the fried-to-order flounder with iceberg lettuce on a sesame bun. Duke’s former employer, DC’s Salt Line, makes one of the area’s top burgers, and here Duke does the place proud with a similar double patty gilded with American cheese.
Things get iffier when the menu expands at night. A kale salad featured too-tough leaves, while other bowls—namely the curried ramen and coconutty rice noodles—had us searching for a salt shaker. Instead, load up on takeout-riff starters such as Peking-duck dumplings and lobster rangoon. And if there’s a layer cake, don’t skip it—the chocolate-hazelnut slice was the star of the night. 1508 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Moderate.
This article appears in the November 2019 issue of Washingtonian.