Editors' pick

Perry's

American
$$$$ ($15-$24)
large-image
large-image
Enjoy the vistas and fusion food from the rooftop, the largest open-air seating area in Adams Morgan.
Sun-Thu 5:30-10:30 pm
Fri 5:30 pm-11:30 pm
Sat 11 am-3 pm
5:30 pm-11:30 pm; Brunch: Sun 10:30 am-2:30 pm
(Adams Morgan)
Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan (Red Line)
202-234-6218
72 decibels (Must speak with raised voice)
'

Editorial Review

2011 Fall Dining Guide


By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, December 15, 2013

Even Washington's occasional restaurant--goers are likely to be familiar with Perry’s, the Adams Morgan fixture that populates seemingly every local listicle celebrating outdoor dining and Sunday brunch. The restaurant maintains one of the loftiest places to graze on its rooftop, nearly 30 feet off the ground, and a weekend morning menu that comes with a side of men in drag.

Longtime citizens might not recall Perry’s origins, however. When owner Saied Azali opened the destination’s doors nearly three decades ago, the second--floor dining room featured a Japanese menu; Perry’s saluted Matthew C. Perry, the 19th--century U.S. Navy officer credited with opening Japan to the rest of the world.

Last month, the restaurant returned to its Eastern roots. The owner says he wanted to change his menu as long as several years ago. Only the lack of talent held him back: Skilled Japanese chefs, like quiet restaurants, are rare commodities.

Heading up the kitchen these days is Hironobu Higashijima, whose rsum lists Makoto, the grand dame of Japanese establishments in the Palisades, and the more contemporary Kushi in Mount Vernon Triangle. Watching over the sushi bar, which has been a staple of Perry’s since 1984, is a veteran of Raku in Bethesda, Tetsuya Nakata.

In its early weeks, the reconsidered Perry’s is better for its kozara (small plates), kushiyaki (skewered grilled food), fried dishes and noodles than for its raw seafood compositions. I say this based on a beautiful but fishy--tasting arrangement of sliced orange clam and a rainbow roll so flashy, the flavors of the different fish get lost. Plain sushi is a better route. Give me a finger of yellowtail on a pad of soft rice, and I’m a happy diner.

I like my yellowtail cooked, too, and the kitchen delivers, with yellowtail jawbone that’s lightly crisp from just salt and a brush with the grill. My prize: snowy meat just below the surface of the skeleton. A squeeze of lemon is the only accessory the dish requires.

Order drinks to begin (the bartender does well by the classics), and ease into the round with a few small plates. The gyoza, or dumplings, are first--rate, see--through crescents filled with crumbled beef cheeks and Chinese chives, then seared to a golden crisp on one side. Skewered chicken meatballs ---- springy oval patties shocked with ginger and punctuated with water chestnuts ---- are likely to prompt an order for seconds. And if your chopsticks don’t make quick work of pork short ribs draped in an eye--popping “bulgogi” sauce, you have more restraint than this heat--seeker.

From the flames of the stove emerge silken, miso--bathed cod, offered under a canopy of bamboo leaf with crisp--tender green beans made smoky from the grill. The fish is good by itself; a dab of its accompanying emulsion of miso, butter and Parmesan lends the entree a pleasant European air.

Perry’s fry cook is as adept as its grill tender. The evidence arrives on a platter of crisp mahogany chicken arranged with irresistible curry--laced “Nobu” rice ---- an homage to the lead chef here ---- and wasabi--ignited coleslaw that would be more with less mayonnaise. (A soak in sake, soy sauce and ginger informs the chicken, while a powder of potato starch lends it a deep tan.) Grander yet is the kitchen’s “Nippon” fish and chips. The catch features whole fried porgy, carved into crisp bites. The “chips” are mostly root vegetables: lotus root, Korean sweet potatoes, beets, sometimes turnips. A house--made ponzu sauce electrifies the eating.

On a cold winter night, a bowl of thin buckwheat noodles with islands of fried tofu adrift in a mushroom--fueled broth makes one merry and bright.

One of Perry’s abundant attributes is the skill with which its staff handles groups of diners. In almost every party, there’s bound to be raised arms and questions from members who say they don’t care for Japanese, they can’t eat flesh ---- whatever. Throw the restaurant an issue and the kitchen can likely address it. Japanese selections flag almost a dozen vegan items, from wild mushroom and somen noodle soup to skewered grilled okra and Chinese broccoli tossed with miso dressing. The most generous of the lot appears to be the Asian chop salad: kabocha squash, Brussels sprouts, spicy greens, tofu, cucumber, daikon and a sesame dressing. Alas, my server forgot to drop it off on my last visit, so I’ll have to go back to tell you more about it.

As for the carnivore concerned about finding something suitable, let Perry’s introduce him to the grilled New York strip. The sirloin swells with beefy juices and the miso with which it’s marinated; the pre--sliced slabs of beef share the plate with a thatch of house--cut french fries that don’t last long after making their entrance.

Perry’s sprawling second--floor dining room, reached after a steep climb of marble stairs, does not suggest you’re in Tokyo. But Azali has applied a coat of orange paint to the walls and installed some fresh light fixtures, and plans to add wood counters to both the front sushi counter and the handsome bar to the side of the expanse. In the kitchen, the staff awaits equipment, including a new grill, that should make their assignments easier. (Too bad the tables aren’t bigger; rarely does dinner fit easily on their surfaces.)

Desserts reflect the past ---- and fear not, fans, drag brunch remains on the menu. As far as this diner is concerned, the chance to eat a moist slice of almond cake on a pool of creme anglaise is a good thing. The menu credits former Perry’s chef Robert Dalliah, now catering at the Well Dressed Burrito in Dupont Circle.

Perry’s, once the source of crusty crab cakes and divine banana cream pie, did America proud for years. With time, I expect the new--old fixture to burnish its adopted accent, too.

Next week: Rose’s Luxury on
Capitol Hill.

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Review

It's smooth sailing for revamped Perry's
New captains face, and meet, challenges
By Tom Sietsema
Jan. 16, 2011

Be skeptical about what you are about to read. Saied Azali, the owner of Perry's, hired a longtime friend of mine, Mark Furstenberg, to recharge the menu last year after the latter complained to him about the restaurant's indifferent food.

"Would you like to do something about it?" Azali asked the Washington baker.

Furstenberg jumped at the chance, recruiting Robert Dalliah, 47, from the once-good Buck's Fishing & Camping in Upper Northwest, where the Gambian native had toiled for nearly eight years as sous-chef. Since June, the two have been working together as consultant and chef, bouncing ideas off each other in daily kitchen conversations.

Tilapia? Dalliah suggested dusting the fish with Japanese bread crumbs. Furstenberg countered, "Everyone does panko." The realized dish, which looks like a proper golden schnitzel, gets its faint crunch from crushed almonds.

Chicken? Furstenberg didn't want its herbed brine to include lemon, but Dalliah insisted. Good for him. The bird, roasted beneath a brick, is brighter for the citrus.

The American food at Perry's, a place perhaps best known during its 27-year run for its rooftop dining and drag brunch, hasn't tasted this good in a long time.

You expect the bread to be good here. Furstenberg was the guy who founded the bakery Marvelous Market in 1990 and downtown's Breadline seven years later. But the bread, from Baguette Republic (and run by a protege of the baker), isn't the only pre-dinner temptation. With the slices come a little dish of fried chickpeas that crackle in the mouth and leave some fire in their wake. Their cayenne, cumin and coriander are a delicious excuse to order accompanying cocktails. The lightest drink splashes prosecco with yuzu; the warmest, poured from a teapot, is a rum punch spiced with cinnamon and cloves -- a liquid quilt for a cold winter day

Tip No. 1 at Perry's: If it's cooked in bubbling oil, order it. Dalliah and his kitchen cohorts are aces when it comes to frying. Bring on the oysters wearing golden cornmeal jackets. Cue the chicken croquettes, piping hot and airy-crisp (but in need of a more assertive tomato jam than this one). Coddies are fine balls of cod and potatoes, served atop saltines, and a fond memory for Furstenberg, who made an after-school snack of them back in his boyhood days in Baltimore. The 72-year-old remembers they cost 25 cents apiece. Here, a quartet goes for $8.

Dalliah and Furstenberg clearly love vegetables. I could have made a meal of the side of soft-cooked pumpkin laced with thyme or the starter of roasted root vegetables drizzled with basil oil. Get an appetizer of pork ribs draped with a chunky tomato sauce just so you can try its base of long-braised greens punched up with ham hocks.

The fish taco should be tossed back, or at least rethought. Its tilapia is lost amid the shredded lettuce, sour cream and guacamole heaped upon it, and a brittle fried-then-grilled tortilla makes for messy eating. Perry's Caesar salad also is no better than standard-issue.

The main courses tend to be simple notions dressed up with a diverting accessory or two. A strapping pork chop is enhanced with onion confit and a rustic potato salad. Swordfish striped from the grill is good by itself, but the entree blossoms in the company of lemon chutney. Crab cakes are flat and dense, but also surprisingly succulent; throw in twice-fried french fries and dressed-to-order cole slaw, and life is grand. Duck confit has been among the specials, and I never fail to order it here. Every component is spot-on: the duck, with shattering skin that gives way to velvety flesh; the potato gratin rich with cream and cheese; the frisee that lightens everything. If you can't make it to France, this dish gets you close.

The dining room -- painted a shade of mint, warmed up with dark wood and soft couches near enormous windows -- fuels the pleasure of eating this good food. Perry's lighting shaves a few years off the face, and the music is played at a level that ... isn't it lovely to not have to shout through dinner?

To reach the second-story space, diners climb 20 steep marble steps. But even without the exercise, I'd finish a homespun dessert at Perry's. The best celebrate fruit: apples in pie, pears in a tart. Chocolate-buttermilk cake with raspberry sauce, however, resembles something that might land in front of you at the end of a hotel banquet.

Regulars know there are two menus at Perry's. The second sheet is devoted to sushi. But the C team appeared to be slicing the raw fish and shaping the rice pads the last time I ordered off the Japanese menu. The shrimp roll tasted as if it had been assembled earlier in the week, and the rice supporting a clam crumbled to the touch (it was dry). A long strip of barbecued eel hung a good two inches off its base of starch. Sushi Taro this is not.

Azali says, "I'm very happy with Robert," so much so that the restaurateur wants to expand the chef's responsibilities to include Mintwood, Azali's spring project. Named for the street where Azali first lived in Adams Morgan, the proposed restaurant, also on Columbia Road, will serve "American comfort food."

But isn't that what Perry's serves? As it turns out, the original restaurant is a testing ground for the next one, Azali says. Mintwood is likely to inherit the good turf; Perry's will focus even more on fish and seafood (hopefully including its sushi).

Already, the future tastes pretty good.

2011 Fall Dining Guide

Perry’s finds its way back to Eastern roots
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, December 15, 2013

Even Washington's occasional restaurant--goers are likely to be familiar with Perry’s, the Adams Morgan fixture that populates seemingly every local listicle celebrating outdoor dining and Sunday brunch. The restaurant maintains one of the loftiest places to graze on its rooftop, nearly 30 feet off the ground, and a weekend morning menu that comes with a side of men in drag.

Longtime citizens might not recall Perry’s origins, however. When owner Saied Azali opened the destination’s doors nearly three decades ago, the second--floor dining room featured a Japanese menu; Perry’s saluted Matthew C. Perry, the 19th--century U.S. Navy officer credited with opening Japan to the rest of the world.

Last month, the restaurant returned to its Eastern roots. The owner says he wanted to change his menu as long as several years ago. Only the lack of talent held him back: Skilled Japanese chefs, like quiet restaurants, are rare commodities.

Heading up the kitchen these days is Hironobu Higashijima, whose rsum lists Makoto, the grand dame of Japanese establishments in the Palisades, and the more contemporary Kushi in Mount Vernon Triangle. Watching over the sushi bar, which has been a staple of Perry’s since 1984, is a veteran of Raku in Bethesda, Tetsuya Nakata.

In its early weeks, the reconsidered Perry’s is better for its kozara (small plates), kushiyaki (skewered grilled food), fried dishes and noodles than for its raw seafood compositions. I say this based on a beautiful but fishy--tasting arrangement of sliced orange clam and a rainbow roll so flashy, the flavors of the different fish get lost. Plain sushi is a better route. Give me a finger of yellowtail on a pad of soft rice, and I’m a happy diner.

I like my yellowtail cooked, too, and the kitchen delivers, with yellowtail jawbone that’s lightly crisp from just salt and a brush with the grill. My prize: snowy meat just below the surface of the skeleton. A squeeze of lemon is the only accessory the dish requires.

Order drinks to begin (the bartender does well by the classics), and ease into the round with a few small plates. The gyoza, or dumplings, are first--rate, see--through crescents filled with crumbled beef cheeks and Chinese chives, then seared to a golden crisp on one side. Skewered chicken meatballs ---- springy oval patties shocked with ginger and punctuated with water chestnuts ---- are likely to prompt an order for seconds. And if your chopsticks don’t make quick work of pork short ribs draped in an eye--popping “bulgogi” sauce, you have more restraint than this heat--seeker.

From the flames of the stove emerge silken, miso--bathed cod, offered under a canopy of bamboo leaf with crisp--tender green beans made smoky from the grill. The fish is good by itself; a dab of its accompanying emulsion of miso, butter and Parmesan lends the entree a pleasant European air.

Perry’s fry cook is as adept as its grill tender. The evidence arrives on a platter of crisp mahogany chicken arranged with irresistible curry--laced “Nobu” rice ---- an homage to the lead chef here ---- and wasabi--ignited coleslaw that would be more with less mayonnaise. (A soak in sake, soy sauce and ginger informs the chicken, while a powder of potato starch lends it a deep tan.) Grander yet is the kitchen’s “Nippon” fish and chips. The catch features whole fried porgy, carved into crisp bites. The “chips” are mostly root vegetables: lotus root, Korean sweet potatoes, beets, sometimes turnips. A house--made ponzu sauce electrifies the eating.

On a cold winter night, a bowl of thin buckwheat noodles with islands of fried tofu adrift in a mushroom--fueled broth makes one merry and bright.

One of Perry’s abundant attributes is the skill with which its staff handles groups of diners. In almost every party, there’s bound to be raised arms and questions from members who say they don’t care for Japanese, they can’t eat flesh ---- whatever. Throw the restaurant an issue and the kitchen can likely address it. Japanese selections flag almost a dozen vegan items, from wild mushroom and somen noodle soup to skewered grilled okra and Chinese broccoli tossed with miso dressing. The most generous of the lot appears to be the Asian chop salad: kabocha squash, Brussels sprouts, spicy greens, tofu, cucumber, daikon and a sesame dressing. Alas, my server forgot to drop it off on my last visit, so I’ll have to go back to tell you more about it.

As for the carnivore concerned about finding something suitable, let Perry’s introduce him to the grilled New York strip. The sirloin swells with beefy juices and the miso with which it’s marinated; the pre--sliced slabs of beef share the plate with a thatch of house--cut french fries that don’t last long after making their entrance.

Perry’s sprawling second--floor dining room, reached after a steep climb of marble stairs, does not suggest you’re in Tokyo. But Azali has applied a coat of orange paint to the walls and installed some fresh light fixtures, and plans to add wood counters to both the front sushi counter and the handsome bar to the side of the expanse. In the kitchen, the staff awaits equipment, including a new grill, that should make their assignments easier. (Too bad the tables aren’t bigger; rarely does dinner fit easily on their surfaces.)

Desserts reflect the past ---- and fear not, fans, drag brunch remains on the menu. As far as this diner is concerned, the chance to eat a moist slice of almond cake on a pool of creme anglaise is a good thing. The menu credits former Perry’s chef Robert Dalliah, now catering at the Well Dressed Burrito in Dupont Circle.

Perry’s, once the source of crusty crab cakes and divine banana cream pie, did America proud for years. With time, I expect the new--old fixture to burnish its adopted accent, too.

Next week: Rose’s Luxury on
Capitol Hill.

2011 Fall Dining Guide

2011 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Here's where I like to take divergent tastes. The Adams Morgan restaurant waves an American flag with the likes of its crusty crab cakes and citrusy roast chicken, but there is also some foreign intrigue in its dossier: a sushi list, a side of curry-fragrant cauliflower, pork schnitzel with a pretty potato-avocado salad. I appreciate more than the edible options; in nice weather, it's hard to choose between Perry's handsome second-floor dining room and its rooftop deck for dinner. I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that one of my longtime friends, Washington baker Mark Furstenberg, helped develop the menu with chef Robert Dalliah. I'd also be charged with neglect for not mentioning the banana cream pie. Like so much of the cooking here, the dessert is pure and understated.