The sun is shining, the tourists are rolling in like high tide and the Wharf is jam packed with people looking for a meal to make up for the miserable experience that is traveling to the Wharf. Lucky for them (and us), Kith/Kin’s summer menu is good enough to make you forget. A mixture of traditional summer dishes like soft shell crab and soon-to-be-classics like chef Kwame Onwauchi’s braised oxtails, the new menu doesn’t sacrifice complexity or quality. It’s good and it’s interesting and, if you pay attention, you might just learn something. You can also stuff your face to the point where your mind stops working and you become a being made entirely out of coconut rice, jerk chicken and light. That’s fine too.
The heartier KIN section of the menu with its Jollof rice and goat roti might be luring you with the siren song of large plates, but skipping the lighter and snackier KITH section would be terrible idea. It’s there where Onwauchi’s ability to take unlikely ingredients and imbue them with the flavors of West Africa, the Caribbean, Jamaica and Nigeria shine bright. Take the simplistically named cucumber and avocado salad, which uses Trinidadian curry (plus goose berrys dressed up with piri piri) to add some spice and depth to the mixture of marinated cucumber and hunks of creamy avocado. There’s also the uni escovitch, which remixes a classic Jamaican recipe with fresh uni and Maryland crab, all topped on the crispiest roti you’ve ever had.
And speaking of crab, Kith/Kin’s soft shell suya (a play on a Nigerian recipe) uses alligator pepper and toasted coconut syrup to create a crystalline fried crab that is sweet and a little spicy and almost effervescent. It was less of a soft shell crab and more of the concept of a soft shell crab. It’s too good to be real. Even now, I’m pretty sure it was a figment of my imagination. Pair it with a boozy, rum filled Painkiller and you’ve achieved peak summer.
We’ve written before about our love for Kith/Kin’s Mom Dukes shrimp and goat roti. Suffice it to say, they’re still both standouts and you’d be very happy ordering both of them. When taking notes on both of those dishes, I suddenly started writing in all caps. That’s how you can tell I’m really enjoying a meal. In fact, it would probably be more illuminating for me to copy and paste my notes and let you figure it out from there, but it’s not going to happen. Either way, the goat is still fragrant and the shrimp is still succulent. These dishes will treat you right whether it’s summer or winter.
And speaking of the changing seasons lot has changed for the crew at Kith/Kin. In one year, Chef Kwame Onwuachi has written a book, been nominated for a RAMMY award and won a James Beard award. On top of that, Paola Velez (who was also nominated for a RAMMY award for her work at Iron Gate) joined the Kith/Kin team as an executive pastry chef. Her desserts are a satisfying final chapter to Onwauchi’s book of a meal. All of them are beautiful pieces of art, the kind of food you almost don’t want to touch because it looks so good.
If you’re trying to keep it simple (ish) the Caribbean rum cake is good enough to sell your soul with it’s deep chocolate flavor and tropical passion fruit sorbet. If you’re looking to get a little weirder, the mysteriously named Habanero Peppers features a tres leches cake covered with elderflower snow and “habanero peppers.” Like many of the dishes at Kith/Kin, you have no idea how much you want it, until it’s right in front of you.
Kith/Kin is located at 801 Wharf Street SW.