The delivery comes packaged like an expensive gift. Inside, a hand-written note, a rose, and an unfinished wooden cigar box engraved with the recipient’s name. Within that is, hands down, DC’s most beautiful takeout.
Minibar alum John Snyder and sommelier Kiran Saund, a former Baked & Wired manager with a culinary arts degree, began selling chirashi “treasure chests” via their personal Instagram accounts in June. At $150, the “Saund & Snyder” boxes weren’t cheap, but they incorporated luxe ingredients like wagyu ribeye, Hokkaido uni, and Spanish otoro. They regularly sold out within hours.
Now, the duo have changed menus. They’re delivering intricate bentos (also $150 each) with seven small “courses” highlighting seafood and preserved summer ingredients. Among the tasting-menu-like dishes: a squash/foie gras tart; uni bites with shiso, melon, and salted cream cheese; an oxtail bun with gold leaf and matcha made from dried tomato plants; and “bacon and eggs” with bacon-like cured tuna belly, Hokkaido scallops, young okra, and smoked trout roe over otoro tartare. Extra courses can be added for an additional $15 each, and a wine pairing is $45.
“We noticed that a lot of fine-dining restaurants that we respect were bringing all these takeout containers that just ruin the image or ruin the experience,” Saund says. “The food was probably still delivering on the quality, but the experience is not there. That’s half the reason we go to these restaurants. And so John and I were constantly discussing how you can bring the concept of a fine-dining experience into the home without necessarily literally arriving as a chef, you know, doing truffle shavings.”
On a practical note, they didn’t want to offer food that had to be reheated at home. “It’s a lot easier to keep food cold than it is food hot,” Snyder says. And on a creative note, they wanted the food to be stunning and colorful. It helped that Snyder has learned a lot of “really awesome fish techniques” from a sushi master at Minibar, though he credits Saund as the superior fish butcher.
As for the gift-like packaging, Saund and Snyder looked for something sustainable that people wouldn’t just throw in the trash or recycling bin. They settled on the personalized wooden cigar boxes, which can easily be washed out and repurposed. They use their own boxes to hold face masks and filters; others have started using them to store tea bags or photos and postcards.
The operation has a social justice edge, too. In order to support Black Lives Matter causes, Saund & Snyder gives 10-percent of its weekly profits to rotating non-profits such as the Okra Project, which supports black trans people, and Humanity & Inclusion, which is helping the relief efforts in Beirut.
For now, Saund & Snyder offer only 10 boxes each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The high demand has inspired them to think about opening their own restaurant some day. Although their food has leaned Japanese, they envision combining Snyder’s Southern roots (he’s from Georgia) and Saund’s Punjabi heritage. They’re planning a September 22 pop-up at Navy Yard Caribbean restaurant Bammy’s, featuring an eight-course tasting menu of traditional Punjabi food with a fine-dining bent. Tickets will be available Monday, August 31 through Saund and Snyder’s Instagram accounts.
“One thing I can definitely promise you is that whatever our brick and mortar is, it’s definitely going to align art and food together. That’s one of our main passions,” Saund says. “I can promise elegance, and I can promise experience.”