The Washington Post
Cuisine to catch at the new Wharf district
The Wharf is making its mark on D.C.’s crowded dining scene. The new entertainment district in Southwest Washington is home to new restaurants ranging from a fine-dining culinary trip to Spain from Fabio Trabocchi to chef Kwame Onwuachi’s sophomore effort. Here, Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema helps you navigate the choices. (Reviews have been excerpted.)
“Everything we do is always personal,” says Cathal Armstrong, whose soon-to-close Restaurant Eve in Alexandria is named for his daughter and whose sprawling new Philippine/Korean/Thai creation on the Wharf means “left” in Tagalog. In Washington at least, there’s nothing quite like Kaliwa, where three popular cuisines are offered in what feels like a fun house, dressed with noodleshaped dividers and coco-shell light fixtures that bring jellyfish to mind. Early on, the best dishes include brined, braised, grilled beef with banana ketchup, and sweet crab draped with a searing red curry — combinations flying the flags of the Philippines, where Armstrong’s wife and Kaliwa co-owner, Meshelle, is from, and Thailand, the country whose food they most crave away from home. 751 Wharf St. SW. kaliwadc.com.
Few chefs enjoy the Midas touch of Fabio Trabocchi, whose see-and-be-seen Italian restaurants across Washington come with the advantage of terrific menus and top-flight service. The chef’s latest hit takes place on the Wharf and pays homage to the cooking of Spain, the origin of his equally savvy wife and business partner, Maria. Your first impression: What a sumptuous space! I knew that spring had truly sprung when I saw a classic potato omelet arranged with wild ramps and dabs of aioli, pale green with the season’s garlic. Every aspect of a meal puts the customer first, from the leather banquettes that support leisurely meals to leftovers that are retrieved from the host stand. 791 Wharf St. SW. delmardc.com.
Here’s the place to come for bowl-scraping-good guacamole with the option of blue cheese, life-size metal trees with faux flowering branches, service with canyon-wide smiles and, depending on where you settle, a view of the revived Southwest Waterfront. Over the top? Absolutely, but it’s nice to find a Mexican restaurant that isn’t resorting to design cliches and a menu that hits plenty of high notes. Anytime is good for whole roasted fish, butterflied and brushed with two true-tasting adobos, one color per meaty half. Did I mention the very good margaritas? 98 District Sq. SW. mividamexico.com.
Kith and Kin
Kith and Kin showed promise at launch (dessert “peppers” over snowy granita were especially imaginative), but it has morphed into a restaurant that, frankly, tastes like your fifth or sixth choice on the waterfront. Not bad, given the stiff competition there, and if you were to eat only jerk chicken with thyme-freckled coconut rice or curry goat roti — dishes that tell chef Kwame Onwuachi’s story thus far — you might question my lack of enthusiasm. But salt bombs in a salad, tough beef satays and scripted service leave me wishing I were eating just about anywhere else nearby. 801 Wharf St. SW. kithandkindc.com.