Campbell avenue in Shirlington has a new kid on the block– Palette 22.
This is a neighborhood that already has a wide array of culinary delights. Capitol City Brewing Company has a satellite location on the street, Luna serves up delicious Vietnamese, and there’s even a Korean-style fried chicken spot that’s just opened up called DAK. So what could a new spot in the neighborhood that already has everything possibly offer? How about adventurous street food from around the world?
The creative team behind Palette 22 has taken two bold steps in the world of food: First, they’ve taken dishes normally served from food trucks and festival tents, and put it into a wide, open loft-style space, complete with a wall-less kitchen. Secondly, they’re tying in their menu with local artists.
Every corner of the restaurant has art, and every last piece is from an artist within 90 miles of the restaurant. Art director Cara Leepson hasn’t just made the restaurant a space that just happens to have tasteful pieces of art nailed to the walls; she’s made the art a key feature of the new restaurant. There are portraits, and there are murals. There are tiny pen-and-ink drawings, and large-format photographs printed on aluminum. The creative team has even gone so far as to have Aniekan Udofia finish one of his pieces on opening night in the middle of dinner service. The difference between just having art for art’s sake, and maintaining the commitment to art like Palette 22 is like the difference between having an iron-on patch and having a tattoo.
Of course, Chef Graham Duncan has his work cut out for him in finding flavors to match the eclectic scene. The street-style dishes are all over the map. Chinese-style bao buns, grilled corn, churros (served with a Mexican spiced chocolate sauce and chopped strawberries), and empanadas. The culinary team has truly taken a “don’t hold back” approach to their menu. While their flatbreads might be comprised of simple (not to be confused with “boring”) ingredients, the brick oven is as high tech as a kitchen can get. It combines gas heat and wood fire to create not just controllable smoke, but a much better control of the heat.
Opening night is set for, you guessed it, 02/22. I plan on re-visiting the restaurant to see how Aniekan transforms a wall inside a restaurant, and how exactly the chefs pull off vegan ceviche.