1924 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (http://www.kyirisandc.com/)
** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)
Pressure had to have been high for Chef Tim Ma. He left the comforts of Arlington, Virginia, where his original restaurant Water & Wall had been receiving positive reviews, to start up a new venture in D.C. While Water & Wall remains under Ma’s supervision, he added the much-anticipated Kyirisan to the continually expanding Shaw District. Kyirisan, which describes its menu as Chinese-French, blends seemingly disparate techniques and ingredients into harmonious and, most importantly, delicious food. If our meal was any indication of Ma’s skill, he made the right choice in expanding: I have no doubt that the District will continue to flock to Kyirisan.
The Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C. is the place to be these days. Hot new restaurant in the District? More than likely, Shaw is where you’ll find it. With the constant influx of new joints hitting the area, restaurants need to offer something well beyond the ordinary. And Kyirisan has plenty to offer. Dinner starts out the right way: with one of the restaurant’s craft cocktails along with breezy yet polished service. The servers run an efficient ship, but always came across as approachable, knowledgeable, and helpful.
The menu is broken down into three main groups: “In The Ground,” “On The Ground,”
and “Under the Water.” We opt to start with two very different, but very delicious small plates: Freebird Wings and Deep Fried Tofu. The wings, which are a carryover from Water & Wall, are Ma’s take on the classic Buffalo starter. Here, Asian ingredients like oyster sauce and chili paste are utilized for the savory and heat aspects of the dish, while the richness of the wings comes by way of creme
fraiche; the French take on sour cream. The use of creme fraiche is a genius way to mimic the creaminess of butter, and it plays in harmony with the spice. Like all good wings, these make good use of the wet wipes provided. Tofu, meanwhile, is crisped and lightly coated in a black pepper sauce that calls to my childhood. Ma’s sauce is light; a barely there glaze that packs in the umami. The dish is homey, satisfying, and fantastic.
As we move along to larger dishes, the Rose Veal Short Rib
continues to please the palate. Crispy shallots, garlic confit, and Fresno peppers provide texture and freshness to the unctuous meat, while the Char Siu (Chinese roast pork) sauce ensures you mop up every last morsel. Sous Vide Duck Confit, with its tender meat and highly addictive caramelized Brussels Sprouts, is a bit heavy-handed with the aioli. The sauce cools the dish down to room temperature, although it is never clear whether that is the kitchen’s intent. Though not a complete misfire, the dish is a far cry from the rest of our meal. Howver, dinner ends on a high note with the Custard Cheesecake. The cake is creamy, with just a hint of tang, and
contrasts beautifully with the richness of the hazelnuts included in the form of ganache, butter and soil. Chocolate sauce seals the deal.
Fusion cuisine, at least the phrase, has seemingly gone out of fashion. But Kyirisan, and its ability to deftly combine the flavor profiles of traditional Chinese dishes with classical French techniques, demonstrates that the fusion can be more than just a gimmick. Bottom line: Chef Ma may be just getting his footing in the District, but he appears more than ready to run with the big boys.
Atmosphere: The restaurant is filled with cool, blue banquets, marble counters, and gold accents throughout. There’s a relaxing vibe with an efficient and friendly staff. Service had the polish of a fine dining establishment with the demeanor of a neighborhood diner. The service paced its dishes appropriately and provided attentiveness throughout the meal.
Noise: Moderate. Given the difficulties locking down a reservation, I expected the meal to share a similarity with its D.C. restaurant bretheren: noise. But I’m pleased to report that even with the hustle and bustle of dinner service, I never had to yell or raise my voice to hold a conversation; a welcome change.
Recommended Dishes: Deep Fried Tofu, Freebird Wings, Rose Veal Short Rib, Custard Cheesecake
Reservations: Recommended. Reservations are accepted up to one week out, and the restaurant filled up quickly as our dinner progressed. No doubt that a mention from The Michelin Guide as a Bib Gourmand in D.C.’s inaugural guide will add to the popularity.
$$$ – $50 to $100 for dinner for two