Asian Food Invasion on Barrack’s Row

One of my closest friends, who I actually met through blogging – not this blog, but my last one – 10 years ago(!) is moving back to her home town of Oklahoma. Kacy and her husband Tom were my D.C. foodie friends and my go to resource for the hottest new spots in the nation’s capital. Now that I’ve been out of the foodie game for a little while, and took a hiatus from blogging, I’m SO behind on the latest and greatest in DC restaurants, chefs, openings and closings. The good news, i’m back! And this means I get to catch up on all the tasty new menus I’ve missed. The bad news, I’m so sad to see my foodie friends go, but so happy for the next chapter in their life.

Kacy, Tom and I haven’t had as much time as I would’ve liked to hang out before they leave, but we recently made a date to check out a spot that’s been on our radar for some time – Chiko. Oh and by the way…all these pictures are courtesy of Kacy and Tom. You can check out their blog at Bad Sentences – if you want more food in your life. I wasn’t planning to use their photos but…they came out better than mine!Back to Chiko, short for “Chinese Korean”, is the newest baby from Scott Drewno, formerly of The Source; Danny Lee, chef and owner of Mandu; and Andrew Kim of Matchbox Food Group. These three seasoned chefs have created a spot on Barracks Row that is a fusion of modern Chinese and Korean cuisine served in a fast casual setting with a counter serve format and a tasting bar option. They’ve taken traditional eastern flavors and combined them with contemporary techniques at a very accessible price point. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a reservation for the tasting bar, but we did our own tasting by ordering almost all of the starters, 2 entrees, the full monty of snacks, and a bottle of wine. Their menu changes often, and according to season, so there’s an excuse to always go back for more!After ordering at the counter and taking a whiff of all the amazing aromas happening in the kitchen, we found a seat at one of the 6 tables. Luckily it wasn’t crowded the night we went because this place was a lot smaller than I expected. Within minutes our food started coming out and we quickly realized we definitely outdid ourselves.
The snacks arrived first: Sichuan spicy cucumbers, turmeric pickled daikon, potato and egg salad, chilled marinated little neck clams, napa cabbage kimchi, and rice with furikake butter.  All these snacks were incredible on their own, but paired really nicely with each dish we ordered, and served as a nice palate cleanser in between dishes. The daikon was one of my favorites – fresh and crunchy – but the little neck clams were the most surprising to me. The tiniest little bite packed an abundance of flavor and I couldn’t stop tasting the sauce even after I ate the clam. For starters we went with the chicken spring rolls, double fried wings, pork and kimchi potstickers, the vegetable special;  brussels sprouts, chilled acorn noodles (my least favorite), and my absolute favorite, the shrimp and grits. This wasn’t your typical shrimp and grits – remember, we’re in a Chinese Korean fusion restaurant. This was fresh shrimp served over rice porridge with an unforgettably flavorful garlic XO sauce. I was familiar with rice porridge from my trip to South East Asia, but I had never had it with quite outstanding accompaniments. It was really incredible.
For the main dishes, we chose the cumin lamb stir fry with spicy noodles and caramelized onions along with the rib eye bulgogi, which came with rice cakes with bean sprouts and shitake mushrooms – both really enjoyable, and satisfying. We even got an extra vegetarian version of the cumin lamb stir fry, on the house, and that was just as good! I didn’t have a favorite as they both offered different flavors and textures that were appealing, so if you go…try them both! Chiko also offers a wide range of additional vegetarian options, as well as gluten free, so there really is something for everyone.We shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which was brought to our table in a chiller with ice. It was a pretty mild Sauvignon Blanc so it didn’t have that harsh acidity or over the top grapefruit flavor, making it a lovely complement to all the spicy food. Chiko had a few wines to chose from, bubbles, beer, and Soju.

Chiko now offers an “After Dark” series where they bring in guest chefs to create a few special dishes and serve a limited menu from 9:30-midnight.  This is brilliant because this is the type of comfort food I crave, and would serve as my perfect late night fare after a night of drinking.

Chiko was such a fun, and very satisfying, meal both for our mouths and our wallets. Even with ordering all that food and a bottle of wine, we only ended up spending about $50/ea. All of the dishes were colorful, unique, and incredibly mouthwatering, so we were satisfied with our decision to over order and took our time enjoying every single bite. We all love trying new items and sharing, so this was the perfect opportunity to taste a large portion of their menu. My adventure with Kacy and Tom may slow down, now that they are moving away, but I won’t stop eating at new places and exploring new menus – and neither should you!

Keep checking back for more blogs, comment about Chiko if you’ve been, and tell me about some new places that I might not know about – i’d love to hear from you!

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