Of greatest interest to most diners perhaps, the menu has shifted focus. Himitsu found fans standing in line for egg custard with ginger and sea urchin, and a twist on spiced Peking duck with baked-to-order biscuits instead of the usual pancakes. Pom Pom, Steiner’s baby, defies easy labels. She’s content with “multi-cuisine,” a description that embraces the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The restaurant was almost called JuJu, after the owner’s grandmother. But when Steiner’s partner suggested Pom Pom, a light went off in the entrepreneur’s head: “I’m literally surrounded by them.” Pompoms from Bolivia and Mexico City decorate not just her living room but the bar she co-owns in Petworth, Dos Mamis — and now, of course, her public dining room, refreshed with green paint and plants but just one table more than at the 24-seat Himitsu.
Pom Pom features “food we like to eat, food we like to share,” says Steiner. Best-known at Himitsu for her cocktails and offbeat wine selections, she’s also a 2012 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. One of her contributions to the menu stars her preferred breakfast, labneh (Greek yogurt) in a bowl with slices of raw hamachi, sprinkled with citrusy za’atar and rounded out with zhug, the green hot sauce beloved in Yemen. Garnishes of preserved lemon and crimson pomegranate seeds make for explosive eating. Suffice it to say, the combination isn’t shy.
Hummus stained with black garlic and sprinkled with sesame seeds and fried dried garlic, and raw Wagyu beef served with beet chimichurri, reflect the new direction, too.
Expect a few crossover acts. Moll has a thing for Peruvian green rice. Steiner loves tahdig, Persian rice with a crispy bottom. Together, they came up with a round of herby green rice, bound with an egg and crisped to order. The hybrid comes to the table with a ribbon of marinated eggplant and “pom pom” sauce, a zesty riff on Japanese yum yum sauce.
The grandest dish is a duck that’s been rubbed with ginger, turmeric and tamarind and either roasted (the breast) or fried (leg and thigh). I prefer the fried parts, and wish that the accompanying carrot kimchi hadn’t tasted more of salt than fermentation. But the coconut jasmine rice makes a fragrant companion, and a small bowl of reduced duck pho, hinting of star anise, is a rousing dip for the featured attraction.
Fittingly, the beverage program is inspired by women, some local. Pom Pom stocks rosé and vermouths from Capitoline, and Borough Bourbon and Rodham rye from Republic Restoratives. Not only do the spirits make great cocktails, says Steiner, “they put money in the hands of women.”
Good news for planners: The restaurant accepts reservations every day of the week.
Pom Pom is not Himitsu. It’s different, delicious — definitely marching to its own drummer.
828 Upshur St. NW. 202-321-4751. himitsudc.com. Dishes, $12 to $59.