AN OPENING CHEF AT DOI MOI IS BACK WITH A FUN NEW TASTING MENU

Doi Moi, Logan Circle’s Southeast Asian staple since 2012, just added a new prix fixe option with a throwback twist. Star Restaurant Group, Doi Moi’s managing partners for the past four years, went into the restaurant’s archives to tap an original chef to create it. Laotian-born Deth Khaiaphone was Doi Moi’s chef de cuisine during its early days, working under Haidar Karoum (now the chef-owner at Chloe). Khaiaphone returns to Doi Moi’s kitchen after nearly a decade with a four-course comeback ($65 per person) during dinner service on Mondays to Thursdays.

“I grew up [on the Laos-Vietnam border] eating this food — these are things I really love and enjoy cooking for myself,” Khaiaphone tells Eater. “I’m taking people back to the classics.”

The prix fixe option, a Doi Moi first, runs in tandem with chef de cuisine Jaime Guevara’s regular Vietnamese street food menu full of pho, banh mi, steamed buns, flash-fried beef jerky, dumplings, fresh-pressed juices, and fruity daiquiris for $8 until 8 p.m. daily (1800 14th Street NW).

“We wanted to create a special by bringing in a chef with history here and run it for a short period of time to give it some scarcity,” says Star co-founder Des Reilly.

After two rounds of semi-private tastings in May, complete with scribbled-in scorecards from guests, the team narrowed down nearly 20 test dishes to the final eight (two options for each course). The limited-time offering will run for about 60 days, and the most popular orders will win an a la carte seat on Doi Moi’s menu. “We can use this as a mechanism to really make our all-day menu more interesting and seasonal,” says Reilly.

To start, choose from a fish sauce-slathered scallop carpaccio with a fried garlic crunch or crispy oyster mushrooms dunked in a soy dipping sauce. Khaiaphone’s personal favorite comes next. He wraps beef and rice noodles in grape or lolot leaves — a summertime delicacy that explode with aromatics when grilled. His homemade sambal sauce on the side plays well with a bounty of herbs and micro red shiso leaves.

“Deth gets all of these nuances of flavor into the food — a lot of chefs can’t do that,” says Reilly. Khaiaphone also does desserts, sending out a pretty tapioca soup with Champagne mango coulis, fresh coconut chunks, and a honey tuile topper.

Reilly surprised himself by liking the scallops starter the most (“I’m not a fan, but they’re killer”). The duck’s curry is “so yummy by itself,” he adds.

D.C. just got (more permanent) four-course tasting menu over at downtown’s Basque-themed Bar Spero, where chef Johnny Spero turns to a prix fixe format for $95 per person (or order a la carte at the bar).

“A lot of people who live here are young professionals who love to travel and know what kind of food we are doing here,” says Reilly. “This gives them something new to try.”

Prior to his first go-around at Doi Moi, Khaiaphone worked at Michael Mina restaurants in Naples, Florida, and as a freelance chef on a Caribbean mega yacht. He went on do D.C.’s first Lao noodle house pop-up, Khao Poon, with Thip Khao’s acclaimed chef Seng Luangrath. After considering a brick-and-mortar restaurant of his own, he’s found his niche in the consulting world. “I love cooking and sharing my culture,” he says, adding he likes being more “behind-the-scenes.”

For his new guest chef gig, he stepped into a completely different-looking Doi Moi than the one he knew. Its original stark-white look provided a prime canvas for Star’s tropical overhaul in 2020, complete with floor-to-ceiling bursts of green, blue, and orange tones.

Star just put the finishing touches on its wraparound parklet-turned-permanent patio with colorful tapestries and lanterns from Asia. “It’s a great way to showcase curbside what we’re doing inside,” says Reilly. “This is such an entertainment-driven corridor — we want to create eye candy for pedestrian traffic.”

Star is also behind pollo a la brasa bar Chicken and Whiskey down the street, and its newer Navy Yard sibling just unveiled its own tricked-out parklet across from Nationals Park.

2024-06-12T20:43:24Z dg43tfdfdgfd