And when they did, wow! At least that was my reaction to the smoky jerk chicken, which rivals that served up at Fish, Wings & Tings, the singular and sorely missed Jamaican restaurant run by Jimmie and chef Sharon Banks in Adams Morgan. (The place was pure sunshine, such a joy I requested it for my farewell party when I left The Post after my first tour of duty.)
Addison figures the jerk chicken went through 50 iterations before he and Morgan found their Goldilocks version after years of trials. The prize starts with an allspice cure; continues with a marinade shocked with Scotch bonnet peppers; and moves on to a slow smoke over pimento wood, a stint on a grill and a few minutes in the oven. The result is skin that’s crisp throughout and improved only with a bit of the chefs’ pungent jerk sauce.
Bammy’s is no one-hit wonder. Proof is in the saucy curry goat heaped over rice and peas. The kitchen also produces collards cooked to retain some bite in coconut milk and thyme; chickpeas lavished with butter and curry paste, and brightened with lime juice. The Painkiller does what the creamy rum cocktail’s name suggests: It cures what ails you. The same could be said for the signature rolls, pillowy riffs on Jamaican coco bread served with spicy cheese and pepper jelly.
The debut menu at Bammy’s was Twitter brief. “Carryout freaked us out,” says Morgan. “We didn’t know how our food would translate.” Since my early visit, the list has been lengthened to include jerk pork, escovitch fish and cou cou, a hat tip to Barbados in the form of okra and cornmeal. Hankering for a bammy? A shortage of cassava from Jamaica delayed its introduction. The root vegetable is ground into flour, mixed with coconut milk and fried, creating a flat, soft-crisp “cake” that can be split and stuffed.
For the first time in their careers, the chefs are at the mercy of the weather. The dining room has yet to open. For now, customers spread themselves across the outdoor front bar, with 44 seats and a water view.
Addison and Morgan recruited as their chef de cuisine Nico Leslie, a native of Montego Bay and a former colleague of Morgan’s at B Side in Fairfax. Morgan also has family ties to the islands. His aunt is from Jamaica, and he grew up eating her cooking, bammy included. Has she tasted his passion project? Not yet, says Morgan.
“I joke, she’ll be our hardest critic.” If she doesn’t like something, he says, “she’ll shoot me straight.”
301 Water St. SE. 703-927-2276. bammysdc.com. Open for takeout and patio dining 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Delivery via Toast soon. Entrees $14 to $20.
Most of Ian Hilton’s many ventures are in the District. Why did the entrepreneur pick Arlington for the just-opened Cafe Colline? Peer pressure from friends and family in the Lee Heights neighborhood, for starters. “It’s kind of selfish, frankly,” says Hilton. The new, 50-seat French bistro is “right near my house.”
Easy access to the cooking of chef Brendan L’Etoile, whose work you might know from Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown, is something to aspire to. With the exception of a croque monsieur, L’Etoile isn’t repeating any performances from across the Potomac. One could fashion a meal from just his pork dishes. Cafe Colline’s pink pâté, sporting a thin band of pork fat, hints of garlic and thyme and has the spreadable texture of rillettes. Boudin blanc, teased from ground shoulder and belly meat, adds up to a sausage of distinction. Seasoned with cloves, cinnamon and black pepper — think Christmas, but warmer — the entree comes shored up with butter-rich mashed potatoes and a reduction of chicken stock and madeira that gilds whatever it touches.
Summer gets addressed with a revivifying cold soup: corn whipped to a creamy state with water and aromatics and garnished with bite-size balls of honeydew and cantaloupe. The cafe should market it. Oh, wait. It already comes in a little container, and will continue to be served that way, at least until the rear patio and cream-colored dining room start seating customers. Other antidotes to warm weather include a taste of Provence in the form of a brassy chilled ratatouille; vinegar-steeped beets gathered with tiny green lentils, toasted walnuts and blue cheese; and raspberry sorbet lush with Aperol (although the chocolate-hazelnut pot de creme topped with Chantilly cream is mighty seductive, too).
The newcomer’s single stove and lone fryer explain the concise menu in what used to be Cassatt’s Cafe. Regarding the name, Hilton was prompted by both the location and the French word for “hill.” Colline brings to three the owner’s Gallic venues, which include Parc de Ville in the Mosaic District. Is French his pet cuisine?
“I think Brendan is my favorite flavor,” says the justifiably proud owner.
4536 Lee Hwy., Arlington. 703-567-6615. cafecollineva.com. Open for takeout 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. No delivery. Sandwiches and entrees $15 to $28.
A museum’s worth of antique Thai cooking utensils awaits closer inspection. So, too, do the handwoven bamboo baskets suspended from the ceiling. Sorry to report, you’re going to have to wait to experience the charms of the dining room at Baan Siam in Mount Vernon Square. For now, the co-owners, including chef Jeeraporn Poksupthong and Tom Healy, are welcoming guests only on their L-shaped patio.
Right out of the gate, however, the cooking is some of the most alluring around, plenty to keep you entertained, even if the stage for your pineapple bites is your own kitchen table. The snack — juicy yellow fruit topped with chicken meatballs — is rooted in royal Thai ceremony, says Healy. Roasted peanuts, fermented radish and palm sugar also flavor the balls, black as midnight and pleasantly chewy. One orb is too few. Another glorious dish, an ambassador from southern Thailand, gathers folds of chicken in a green curry, fragrant with Thai basil and slippery with what turns out to be tender young coconut in the mix. Seemingly simple water spinach soaks in a salt bath before it’s stir-fried to greatness with chiles and garlic sauce.
Remember the cramped and busy Baan Thai on 14th Street? The principals closed it on New Year’s Eve, decamping 10 blocks away for more than double the kitchen space in the former Alba Osteria. Its successor, Baan Siam, comes with lots of bells and whistles, including a new custom wok that Healy likens to a jet engine at full blast and a pizza oven too big to remove. Poksupthong is considering cooking fish in the design leftover, or maybe a whole pig.
Can’t wait. Until then, splurge on her stir-fried catfish and that icon from north Thailand, pork shoulder sharpened with fresh ginger and pickled garlic and cooked to a nice breaking point with a curry paste made from scratch. At Baan Siam, there’s not a bite out of place.
425 I St. NW. 202-588-5889. baansiamdc.com. Open for takeout 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Delivery via the restaurant ($3 within a 1 ½ -mile radius). Entrees $15 to $17.