Cooking from the roots up
Kith and Kin Washington, D.C.
The cooking that Kwame Onwuachi is doing at Kith and Kin “puts him in culinary conversation with a small cache of game-changing restaurants around the country,” said Bill Addison in Eater.com. The 28-year-old chef, a closely watched talent since he competed on Top Chef, is calling attention to the roots of African-American cuisine by exploring his own diverse Nigerian, Trinidadian, and Creole heritage. “To plunge straight into the heart of Onwuachi’s synergistic, autobiographical cuisine,” diners should share the goat roti as an appetizer. Marinated in a Trinidadian green paste, then seared and slowly braised, the goat curry is home-style cooking that has been pulled by classical European technique into its “own unique and wonderful dimension.” Every table should also share at least one of Onwuachi’s variations of jollof rice, topped with either jerked mackerel or steak and crab stew. The beef patties are the sole disappointment—too dry—and the “very beige” dining room provides an odd contrast to the vibrant cuisine. But so what? Onwuachi’s creative engine is “firing at peak level.” 801 Wharf St., (202) 878-8566
Nasim Alikhani is serving up an attention-grabbing expression of “an especially compelling ancient cuisine,” said Adam Platt in New York magazine. In a bright, tall storefront space in Brooklyn, the chef, whose menu is inspired by the elegant home cooking she remembers from her Tehran youth, likes to wander among the tables, “greeting customers and dispensing bits of wisdom about the glories of Persian cuisine.” Her enthusiasm is backed up when the food arrives. “As you would expect, there’s an emphasis on small shared plates”—meatballs garnished with sour cherries; sliced roast beets with olive oil, honey, and pistachios; a noodle and lentil stew. Move on to entrées and “similar exotic combinations keep popping up.” The crisp-skinned roast chicken is smothered in a complex sauce of saffron and mashed Persian plums. Whatever you order, include a side of the “addictive delicacy” known as tahdig—wedges of the crackly rice scraped from the bottom of the pot. 75 St. Marks Ave., (646) 340-0322
Passerotto is “the sort of restaurant that makes you feel like a knowledgeable foodie just because you know enough to recommend it,” said Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune. Chef-owner Jennifer Kim has created an “intensely personal” menu, drawing from the Korean food of her childhood and “seasoning it, every now and then, with a smidgen of Italian inspiration.” Her noodle and rice dishes are fusion cuisine you can believe in. Most wonderful is a gochujang chile–infused lamb ragù over what appear to be gnocchi but are actually crispy-chewy Korean rice cakes. Her cavatelli combines pasta with pickled vegetables, smoky nori butter, and crispy fried wakame. The dry-aged lamb tartare is “an umami bomb,” and Kim also does nice work with gochujang-glazed pork shoulder and a seafood stew of clams, mussels, and tofu in a kimchi broth. “I might like to see Kim get a little bolder with some of her dishes,” but the menu promises “fun Korean fare,” and the kitchen “unfailingly delivers just that.” 5420 N. Clark St., (708) 607-2102 ■