The latest restaurant from Tim Ma bridges his Chinese ancestry and his French training. Yet some of the most intriguing eating at the new Kyirisan in Shaw originates from the chef’s cohorts, a group whose backgrounds are Burmese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean and American (South Carolinian, to be precise).
Consider, for instance, a “scrapple” based on the sour Filipino pork dish called sisig, which Ma first tasted at a staff meal prepared by an employee at Water & Wall, his Arlington eatery. Kyirisan’s refined version of the entree brings together braised pig ear, pickled green papaya, Thai chilies and fingerling potatoes, all topped with a fried egg. The combination of tang, heat and runny yolk is a jungle of fun.
Kyirisan’s selections fall under menu headings that share the source of their primary ingredients: “In the Ground” (fried tofu with black pepper sauce), “On the Ground” (beef heart tartare served with a mayonnaise spiked with the pungent Korean condiment gochujang) and “Under the Water.” That last category nets fine halibut propped up on fingers of seared kohlrabi. Beneath the duo: a swab of hoisin sauce that gets its effervescence from Sprite, another idea adopted from a kitchen colleague.
Do the bowls and plates look familiar? Like every other hot dining destination of late, Kyirisan stages its food on pottery designed by Cloud Terre in Arlington. Nutty buckwheat pasta — filled with roasted cauliflower, set on a creamy onion sauce and finished with cool ricotta — practically disappears into its oyster-gray bowl.
The interior, on the other hand, won’t be mistaken for any other in the neighborhood.
“We wanted something different,” says Ma, whose wife, Joey Ma, might be the smile greeting you at the door. “We didn’t know what we wanted.” GrizForm Design Architects in the District came to their rescue with yellow brass triangles protruding from the walls, woven denim-blue booths and a ceiling with multiple angles. “We had the pleasure of eating at Tim’s other restaurants,” including Chase the Submarine in Vienna, “and enjoy how he folded ingredients and flavors together,” explains designer Griz Dwight. Antique screens from a former Chinese restaurant owned by Ma’s uncle grace a hall near the restrooms.
Stick around for the last course. Dessert features a luscious custard cheesecake, baked in a water bath and sure to satisfy a nut lover. It deploys hazelnuts in three ways: as butter, as a powder and as a ganache beneath the cheesecake.
Kyirisan accepts reservations, but only if made on the date you hope to dine there. Asking customers to call during the day and talk to a live person, says Ma, personalizes the interaction. Take that, OpenTable.
1934 Eighth St. NW. 202-525-2942. kyirisandc.com. Dishes, $9 to $26.