Immigrant Food Goes Upscale with New Globe-Trotter Restaurant in Downtown DC
Photo by Elizabeth Sanjuan Photography.
Eating in a museum cafe may mean eating dismal cafeteria food, but in recent years, DC’s cultural institutions have offered culinary offerings worthy of their own visit. Look no further than Sweet Home Café, the restaurant at the African American Museum that received a James Beard nomination; Manna, Chief Todd Gray’s place at the Museum of the Bible, or the Mitsitam Café at the National American Indian Museum. Now, the team behind Immigrant Food is opening an upscale iteration of its “causal cause” restaurant at the Planet Word Language Museum, with a menu designed by Seven Reasons and Chef Imperfecto Enrique Limardo. Immigrant Food + opens Thursday, October 7.
During museum hours, the restaurant will act as Planet Word’s cafe, serving take-out bowls similar to the offerings of the burgeoning fast-casual chain. But in the evening, the space will turn into a high-end spot accessible by a street entrance. Fashioned by the DC DesignCase company, the 81-seat restaurant separates into disparately decorated pockets. Guests can sit in an airy, plant-filled area one night or, on another occasion, dine in an intimate tapestry-lined room that houses the original Franklin School oven.
Like an edible pangea, the menu features sharing platters that blend ingredients and preparations from around the world. The “immigrant dim sum experience” best represents the restaurant’s globetrotting aspirations: a three-tier bamboo steamer breaks down into five small dishes for $ 20 per person, revealing pork buns, from kataifi with passion fruit and wontons wrapped in plantains. Other offerings include a stacked Russian salad dressed in Peruvian aji amarillo mousse and branzino accompanied by a Lebanese yogurt sauce.
“It’s in line with what we’re trying to do with Immigrant Food, which is really to celebrate the different gastronomies that immigrants have brought to the table,” explains Director of Operations Téa Ivanovic. “The idea is to keep doing that, but on a more premium level.”
Planet Word’s linguistic mission also serves as inspiration for the alphabet soup and a blue dessert sphere stuffed with chocolate mousse, a nod to the museum’s cerulean globe installation.
Settle into a bar with the word “house” written on it in 27 different languages for cocktail offers from former Minibar Morgan Barron. In addition to a list of classic cocktails, Barron has created seven drinks to embody a literary work from each continent, another nod to the museum’s wordy activities. Africa is represented by a smoked rye cocktail mixed with blackberries and cinnamon honey in homage to the powerful poem by William Ernest Henley Invictus, while Toni Morrison is Beloved is imagined as a peach and grapefruit julep. The long wine list also embodies the desire to travel, with varietals from the Balkans alongside Spanish and South African grapes.
While the original Immigrant Food site near the White House takes on a policy-driven mission, the museum site works with Planet Word to formulate culturally-focused educational programs. Recently, the restaurant teamed up with the museum for a live cooking demonstration highlighting the culinary delights of the world.
“The museum [celebrates] language and how it impacted our culture and who we are, ”says Ivanovic. “We think immigrants have contributed so much, not just language, but other ways of defining our cultures. “
Food for immigrants +. 925 13th Street NO. 202-888-0760. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.