WTOP | New food pop-ups heat up D.C.’s winter dining scene

By Rachel Nania | @rnania

WASHINGTON — “Pop-up” might have been the buzz word of 2014’s dining scene, but it’s not dying off just yet. In fact, these short-term food showcases are happening with increased frequency in the D.C. area.

The temporary events, which can range anywhere from a single dinner to a multi-month business, offer diners the chance to experience a new cuisine or concept. And they offer chefs, whether seasoned or green, the opportunity to exercise their culinary creativity or test out a new dish.

The New Year is ushering in a whole new collection of food pop-ups in the D.C. area, and Laura Hayes, editor of Dining Bisnow, has a list of the ones that are not to miss.

 Restaurant Eve

Known as one of the D.C.-area’s best in fine dining, Restaurant Eve is shaking things up in its Alexandria kitchen throughout the month of January with a Filipino pop-up menu.

“They’ve stepped far out of their typical comfort zone to cook a Filipino feast,” Hayes says.

Chef Cathal Armstrong is a native Dubliner, but his wife has roots in the Philippines, Hayes explains. So it was his wife’s family history, combined with a recent trip to Thailand that inspired the new venture.

It’s not surprising then that the menu, offered throughout the month of January for $60 a person, features dishes from both the Philippines and Thailand.

Hayes says the highlights on the menu include a Thai seafood curry and Armstrong’s take on Filipino barbecue.

“[Armstrong] uses an excellent slab of pork belly that he serves alongside rice with an egg on top. That kind of fuses several different elements of Filipino cuisine, while still staying true to Restaurant Eve’s commitment to using the best products out there from local farms,” she says.

“He’s really not afraid to use heat and funk – he kind of lays it all out there. And when he talks about it, he just lights up from the inside. It’s something he’s very excited about.”

http://oceanadesigns.net/products.php Baba’s Dumplings

Eat Place is one of D.C.’s newest food incubators, only it operates more like a restaurant than a commercial kitchen space. Hayes explains that different pop-ups come through the space and host what is called a “residency.” And the newest resident at EatsPlace is the incubator’s founder Katy Chang.

Under the name Baba’s Dumplings, Chang is dishing up hand-cut noodle soup and vegetable or meat dumplings, inspired by her father. (Baba is the Chinese word for father.)

“She just has such fond memories of spending time with him in the kitchen, and says that he really taught her about food and life, and so Katy really is pouring her heart into these dishes,” Hayes says.

Chang is purposely keeping her residency short in order to allow other chefs and startups a turn at EatsPlace Hayes says. “So make sure you get in there and try her dumplings and her noodles.”

Baba’s Dumplings is open in January from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

i loved this Silk Road Noodle

Chef Tim Ma is experimenting with a longer-term lunchtime pop-up at his Arlington restaurant Water & Wall. And Hayes says the best part about this pop-up, called Silk Road Noodle, is the variety.

“What’s really neat about it is that they’re not afraid to combine multiple different kinds of cuisine on one menu. You have noodles from every corner of the planet,” she says, naming dishes such as beet raviolini and Vietnamese Bolognese. “Hailing from the Polish cuisine they have potato perogies, they have American mac-and-cheese.”

Another unique aspect of the Silk Road Noodle pop-up is that Ma invites a guest chef each month for a featured dish on the menu. Jonah Kim, who is opening Yona with Mike Isabella in Ballston this year, is this month’s guest chef at the pop-up, and Hayes says his soba noodle and mushroom broth soup is a must.

“I understand it took a lot of work to get the flavor in there. I believe he sous-vided the mushrooms, vacuum-packed them and really got a lot of mushroom flavor in there,” says Hayes, who adds that the soup is also served with a short rib meatball and a Japanese-style tempura.

Bluebird Bakery

Experienced bakers Tom Wellings and Camila Arango are testing out their forthcoming bakery on Jan. 25 at After Peacock Room in Georgetown. At the one-day event, which will begin at 7:30 a.m., the husband-and-wife team will preview all of the goodies they plan to have at their boulangerie-style bakery, planned for Shaw.

“What they’re looking to do is kind of capture that feeling of a European community where you’re visiting your local bakery twice a day – once for your coffee and pastry in the morning and later in the day to pick up bread for the evening meal,” Hayes says. “So their plan is to have hot bread, coming fresh out of the oven, around 4 or 5 p.m., when most people are making their way home from work.”


At Shaw’s fast-casual seafood restaurant Fishnet, chef and owner Ferhat Yalcin is hosting a pop-up to show off his fine-dining skills. Hayes says on Monday and Tuesday nights, Yalcin sets out four placemats in his kitchen for a dinner far different than the ones on his typical menu.

“From there you can watch him cook a six-course seafood dinner, and he’s calling his popup Fishnook,” Hayes says.

The meal is $55 a person and reservations can be made by email. So far, there is no end date for this pop-up, and Hayes predicts it won’t come to a close any time soon.

Happenings at Dolcezza Gelato Factory: Timber Pizza Co., Prelude

Located just behind Union Market in Northeast D.C. is Dolcezza Gelato Factory, which is becoming a real hub for the city’s pop-ups.

“And I can see why; it’s a remarkable place to hold a dinner, and that’s exactly what chefs are looking for when they’re looking for a space,” Hayes says.

Quite a bit of activity is happening at the factory this month. On Jan. 30, Timber Pizza Co., a mobile wood-fired pizza operation that often parks at farmers markets and breweries, is holding its first pop-up in the space. Hayes says the guys behind Timber are hoping to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the near future, and they want to give Washingtonians a taste of what’s to come.

“It will be a five-course dinner full of pizza, no doubt. But it will be paired with some really great craft beers,” Hayes says.

On Jan. 24, Chef Rob Rubba, formerly of Tallula, will hold a one-night dinner to preview his next restaurant. “The menu sounds pretty wild,” Hayes says. “They have a foie gras moose with bee pollen, grilled duck sausage with scallion pancakes — it’s definitely a duck-forward dinner.”

She says diners can also expect a great selection of cocktails, wines and beers from Rubba’s Neighborhood Restaurant Group co-workers.

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Eater DC | Tim Ma Talks Classic and Experimental Sandwiches at the Upcoming Chase the Submarine



                Tim Ma | Image: R. Lopez

The sandwich shop may even feature Ma’s famous wings.

After opening Maple Ave in 2009 and Water & Wall in 2013, Chef Tim Ma is ready to try again. He’s joining forces with local Michael Amouri of Caffe Amouri in Vienna to open Chase the Submarine later this year, named after his son.

But family comes first for Chef Ma. During an interview with Eater, his children sit at a table eating dinner at Water & Wall. Despite the pressures of two restaurants, two kids, and one of each on the way, Chef Ma took some time to sit with Eater DC to tell us some planning details for his new sandwich shop with butchery component, due for Vienna in Fall 2015.

Editor’s Note: The Ma family welcomed their new baby, Camden, on December 23, after this interview took place.

Where did you get your inspiration for a modern deli with a butchery operation?

So Maple Avenue had a food truck, Max.  It continually changed its concept and menu but at the core, it always served sandwiches. We eventually shut it down, mainly because its harder to operate a food truck than a restaurant. Michael Amouri of Caffe Amour and I always talked about partnering on a business together. We decided to extend that same sandwich concept, wanting to do some charcuterie, some production. So we always had this concept in mind, with a sandwich shop in the front but in the back you will see a connected butchery component. It will be a lot of fun.

So now I understand the sandwich connection, but the butchery and charcuterie? What’s your experience there?

We are confined with space, especially at Maple Ave and now Water & Wall too. But there’s always been a butchery component within the restaurants, it’s just not in your face. Take the duck confit: to me it’s kind of like a butchery component, doing preservation. Like all charcuteries, it’s essentially preservation. Here at Water & Wall, we’re always doing the whole pigs. And even when something seems simple, like a pulled pork sandwich, that’s curing and brining whole shoulders with a slow cook, sometimes overnight. So this would all feed into the sandwich shop, doing as much production as possible in-house.

But if we need to bring something in from outside, we will. Am I going to sit there and make all the salami and hams and everything? No. That’s going to be an impossible task with the size of the space that we have. For example, Edward’s makes incredible Virginia ham, we use that already.  I could make ham, but we will do what makes sense for us in-house, as much as we can, picking and choosing the production. You can’t be good at everything [laughs]. Heinz makes the best ketchup in the world, because that’s all they do.

What stage are you at with the planning?

Michael Amouri and I have been working on Chase the Submarine for probably over a year and a half now. We actually started the concept before we opened here [Water & Wall] and had the space with lease. Right before we were going to sign the lease, we found another space in Vienna which seemed interesting but turned out not to be. So we flipped back and that’s why it took a while from concept to lease signing to design. And we had the opening here [at Water & Wall] at the same time with a lot going on in the first year, so things kind of got dragged out.

But we are supposed to open in Fall 2015. Of course I hope that gets pushed up a little bit, and we’ll see how hard I can push. Fall is a good time to open but maybe I can ramp up before it gets busy. We have a conceptual design, layout…we are in schematic design meaning about to go to permit, and into the hands of Fairfax County. I’ve seen other restaurants get stalled out there during the permit process, I guess because they are busy, with a lot is opening in Virginia. So we’ll see.

What specifically do you think will set Chase the Submarine apart from other artisanal sandwich competition?

I think the same things that set Maple Ave. and Water & Wall apart. There’s a lot of great competition out there, all competing for the same customers, which is getting to be a tight market. But we seem to already and hope to keep our edge up. Basically it comes down to our treatment of the food at its core, trying to do as much as we can the right way, if that makes sense. But we have a group of talent here looking at food differently. I hate the use the word but fusion, in a way, makes us unique. From Asian to French Asian to French to Southern, we tend to not confine ourselves in one corner and hope to do that also in Chase the Submarine.

Tell us, which sandwich do you think will cause a cult following, like the wings at Maple Ave?

I don’t know, I have a feeling I might want to serve wings at this sandwich shop [laughs]. And there have been talks about incorporating the sauce we use for the wings in a sandwich one way or another. I’m setting up the kitchen there to be very flexible, so that I’m able to do the wings if I want to. It will have a kitchen bigger than Maple Ave, similar power to what we have here at Water & Wall.  But the menu here is 100 percent different from what we opened with, so I expect the same to happen with the sub shop.

Chase’s menu will have some experimental sandwiches and some staples to expect all the time.  I’ll carry over one or two from the food truck that had a following, maybe the bulgogi, the kimchi on a hoagie roll… but I see that a lot more these days so let’s see what we can do differently. But honestly, I just love classic sandwiches and that’s why the menu will be split. I love the Italian Store here in Arlington, awesome quality meats with simple set up. Then the experimental sandwich menu will be based on what we discover on our slow days. That’s where a lot of our stuff comes, and from family meals. Just like the other two restaurants, I hope Chase the Submarine can have some fun and find its groove.

Three restaurants sounds like a lot to juggle, how do you expect to manage?

The jump from one to two was a big jump for me. I handled some things poorly, other things well, and now I’ve figured out how to juggle two. As for the third, luckily I have a partner on this, Michael. Although it’s never been just me, I have Joey my wife. At the beginning of Maple Ave it was just me, Joey, my parents, and her parents. The second time it was easier to prepare, organize the staff, and hopefully the third time too. Unfortunately I’m dealing with a lot of administration these days, owning two restaurants, but hopefully I can off load some of that in the new year.  And try not to do everything myself. I have a really talented group here to rely on.

The third time’s the charm, right?  Any mistake you made with your last two restaurants that you know to avoid this time?

Just like children, Joey and I are about to have our third child. They always joke you forget how hard it is to raise a child, and that’s the only reason why you choose to do it again. I feel like that’s what’s happening now, opening a new restaurant. Maybe I learned nothing.

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