A bit of bayou in the Beltway
By Justin Rude
Friday, June 15, 2012
Opening a restaurant always presents a risk, especially for first-time owners, but playing for high stakes is nothing new to brothers Di and Hac Dang. The two started the Cajun-flavored, shellfish-focused restaurant Chasin’ Tails in April with money they had earned as professional poker players.
That’s right: The pair wanted to escape the high-pressure, unpredictable world of poker, so they went into the restaurant business.
“Initially, I thought it would be less stressful,” Di said. “But really this is pretty similar in a way. It’s still a gamble.”
It has been a bit of a learning process for the Dang brothers. After investing in design and marketing for their original restaurant name, they learned that Heads and Tails was already the trademarked moniker of a similar restaurant in their native Louisiana. Another hurdle included the dismissal of their general manager shortly after opening over differences in vision for the restaurant.
But if some business issues have been new territory for them, the food they are serving isn’t. The Dangs hail from Baton Rouge, and they call on their family recipes to fill the menu at their restaurant near the border of Falls Church and Arlington.
Crawfish, naturally, is the big draw here, and like the rest of the boiled seafood on the menu, it is served in a plastic bag with your choice of spice blend (Cajun, lemon-pepper or garlic-butter) and to your desired level of heat. Warning: When you ask for very spicy crawfish, you’ll get it. The tame gumbo, on the other hand, would benefit from a deeper base of spices and a darker roux.
Most of the spread is utensils-optional, but you will be glad for the spoon that comes with your etouffee, a frequent special. The crawfish, head-on shrimp and crabs are juicy, and they have a tendency to return fire, so swallow your pride when your server offers you a bib.
Fried food and sides fill the other side of the menu: Fried shrimp, fried oysters, popcorn crawfish tails and chicken tenders are a ready crutch for those who want to avoid the mess. The popular fried “gator bites” really do, I’m almost sorry to say, taste like chicken.
For dessert, turn to the natural choice: beignets with strawberry jam, both of which are made in house, from scratch.
Although the new restaurant is still settling into its digs, the owners already are looking at expansion plans, including adding 72 outside seats to the 150 inside. A lunch menu featuring salads, po’ boys and a muffaletta debuts July 1.
If only they would add a poker night.