Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Kith & Kin - a classic take on afro-cuisine

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A few months ago, one of my bridesmaids and long-time BFF, Jackie, and her husband, Steve, took my husband and me out to dinner at Kith and Kin as their wedding gift to us. I loved this idea and thought it was a very special way to celebrate our friendship and create new memories together. 

Kith and Kin focuses on Afro-Caribbean cuisine. Their space is modern, bright (but not offensively bright), and spacious. Situated within the InterContinenal on the Wharf, this is Kwame Onwuachi's return to the DC restaurant scene after Shaw Bijou's shutter in early 2017. As a Top Chef fan, I always love checking out the alum's restaurants. Call me a fan girl, I'm OK with it.

After we checked in with the hostess, we were immediately shepherded to our table - with beautiful views overlooking the water (remember this was back in September!). Our meal started out with cocktails, of course. I opted for the Caribbean Mule. It was a bit more tart than I expected, but such a beautiful shade of pink. Later on, I moved to the Daiquiri Standard, which I much preferred for its sweeter flavor. The cocktails were beautifully crafted, and you paid the price - $15-$17 each.

The service at Kith & Kin was superb. We were promptly served bread - sweet in flavor (a theme of the evening) and served on a gigantic plate. After conferring with the server on our order, we decided to go with several small plates and three entrees to share. I love what seems to be a new trend (at least to me) where restaurants are finally bringing back true entrees to their menus. Small plates are great, but sometimes a larger portion is a nice option.

Our first small plate was beef patties with a sweet jam-like sauce made of tamarind and a spicy calypso sauce. I was definitely surprised when the plate arrived to see and taste something very similar to an empanada. Everyone really enjoyed this dish- the ratio of beef to pastry was perfect and the portion size was plentiful for a tapa.

In an effort to hold on to summer for as long as possible, we had a tomato and cucumber salad dressed lightly in olive oil and vinegar. I thought the colors and plating of this dish were so pretty. Though the dish itself honestly wasn't anything truly innovative, it was refreshing and tasty. (Side note: it looks like the current menu contains this dish in a slightly modified version, so it may be more unique now).

Next up, the wagyu short rib. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The sweet dipping sauce that accompanied the meat was the perfect pairing. There was definitely rationing of this dish to make sure all four of us had equal parts of the three pieces (yes, this picture is actually what we were served)- always a good sign.

The mushroom forest was deemed an entree, but I am glad that we opted to share this plate. Playfully named, the mushroom forest featured a heaping mound of veggies, bread, and eggplant dip. The bread reminded me of funnel cake dough - light, fluffy, and sweet. Honestly, this dish wasn't my favorite, but the others in the group disagreed with my critique. The veggies were great - but it felt like this was blatantly catering to the vegetarian diner. If I were a veg and ordered this, I would have felt a bit miffed. The meatless dishes at Fancy Radish were much more creative.

The king crab curry was a polarizing dish. I loved it - the crab was fresh and the curry was not overwhelming. Served with plantain chips, this was another dish that definitely geared towards the sweet flavor profile. Jackie quickly proclaimed that she could eat another bowl of the plantain chips, but her husband wasn't crazy about the curry. I would order this again and thought this was a winner.

Mama Duke's shrimp with crispy brioche and buttered rice may have been my favorite dish of the night. The shrimp were served head and shell-on. I normally don't appreciate fine dining courses that require me to de-shell my food - but this was well worth it for the zesty, perfectly cooked shrimp.  The rice was also out of this world. Light, fluffy and oh-so-buttery, I could have gone for another round.

An interesting part of Kith & Kin, we all had a personal favorite. Hands down, Jackie couldn't get enough of the chicken. Perfectly moist with traditional jerk flavors, the chicken was served with sauerkraut and a spicy sauce. The balance between sweet, savor, and spice was in perfect harmony. 

The final dish of the night was a goat roti. I was introduced to goat when a co-worker offered briyani prepared by his Pakistani mother. I was smitten from first bite and have always opted for goat when I see it on restaurant menus since it's not something I cook at home. The goat shoulder was braised and plentiful - no scrimping or rationing necessary. Served with potatoes, this dish was definitely on the heavier side. 

Overall, I enjoyed the experience at Kith and Kin. The flavor profiles were unique and the food is not something we experience many places (unlike Italian, Spanish, etc.). The ambiance was also pleasant and the service was on point. Definitely recommend checking out Kith & Kin for a cultural fine dining experience.