Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Clarissa Villondo
The July 4th weekend notwithstanding (sweet rain, DC Independence Day), summer has made its triumphant return to the city. To celebrate the sunshine and warmer weather, Shaw newcomer Kyirisan recently released its updated summer beverage program.
Chef Tim Ma and his wife and partner Joey Ma have long been fixtures in the D.C. food scene; the pair’s first foray into food in the area was the outstanding Maple Ave., followed closely by the opening of Arlington’s Water & Wall, which blended Chef Ma’s classical French training with his background in, and love of, Asian flavors.
Kyirisan, with its self-described “Chinese-French menu in a home like setting,” is the newest vessel designed to showcase the duo’s restaurant chops.
Beverage Director Tim Russell switched up the drink menu to “reflect the season.” According to Russell, he was looking to stick to a theme of “bright, summery flavors that a bit lighter on the booze.” Think of cocktails you can drink all day while outside with friends; Russell likens his new menu to “a long hang-out session rather than ending up on the floor after two or three drinks.”
To that end, the new beverages most suited to the season can be found under the restaurant’s “Patio Pounders” section. Take the aptly named Ray Bans and Boat Shoes, Russell’s take on the classic Gin Mule. The gin base gives the cocktail some heft and backbone, while fresh ginger beer, house-made ginger syrup, cranberry, and lime meld together to create an eminently crushable drink.
Just as good, and arguably more beautiful, is A Midsummer Night’s Dram, featuring bourbon, a lavender violet liqueur, and lemon. A little smoky, a little savory, and a lot of gorgeous, this blue-hued drink had BYT’s photographer promising a return visit solely for this drink. (The edible flowers on top didn’t hurt, either.)
If you’re looking for something a little stronger on the ABV side, fear not: the “Kyirisan Originals” section of the cocktail list also received an update. Our pick is the Going to Rio: cachaça, triple sec, pineapple, egg white, and a house-made Thai chili shrub. The cachaça (a vastly underutilized spirit) is assertive, letting you know immediately that you’re drinking at the big kids’ table, while the Thai chili shrub rounds out the drink with a slight vinegar aspect and a great late-blooming wave of heat. And the name? One of Russell’s buddies is an Olympic medalist in swimming who’s competing in the 2016 Olympic trials right now. Dope.
Cocktails aren’t the only part of the menu to see some updates. The beer and wine selections have also been tweaked to better pair with the warmer weather and longer days. If you’re a beer fan, don’t miss Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice, a sweet, malty session beer with hints of caramel and cream soda. If that’s too dark, go with Hellbender Brewing’s Southern Torrent; a bready, yeasty saison that’s floral and funky, this locally brewed beer is a fine match for Chef Ma’s justifiably famous Crème Fraiche Chicken Wings with Korean gochujang (think spicy peanut butter-ish).
If wine is more your thing, you’re good to go; Russell has curated a well-rounded by the glass list, highlighted by the Michael Shaps Viognier that blends French and Virginian grapes to make a bright, acidic wine with notes of juicy tropical fruits and a lingering finish. Russell was kind enough to pair the pour with the kitchen’s Raw Royal Sea Bass with orange, radish, and a fish sauce aioli, a gorgeous dish balancing the texture of the creamy fish with the crunchy radish and the flavor of the bold black garlic sauce and garlic oil with the tart orange supremes.
The Rolet Pere et Fils “Arbois” Poulsard is a light-drinking red similar to Gamay that’s tough not to gulp down. Soft and fruity, the early spice gives way to low tannins that make it a great match for the restaurant’s Rabbit Rillete with Fried Green Tomatoes, turnip cake, and a sesame soy. These are easily some of the best fried green tomatoes I’ve had in D.C., and a great segue into the summer fare that’s taking over area menus.
In an area of D.C. that’s certainly seen no shortage in new openings recently, Kyirisan is unique in its ability to both remain true to the season on its menus and to offer delicious food and drink at an insanely affordable price.
Russell describes his work as Kyirisan’s Beverage Director as a “collaboration with an outstanding kitchen and a deep love for food and alcohol.” Good for him. And even better, good for us.