In theory, the successor to Chez Billy in Petworth whets my appetite.
Billed as Ten Tigers Parlour, the winter arrival offers Asian street snacks created by Tim Ma, chef-owner of the very good Kyirisan in Shaw. The owners include brothers Eric and Ian Hilton, the nightlife champions behind the Brixton and the Gibson, among other draws around town. And how sweet that Ma’s father delivers the pot stickers, procured from a Chinese dumpling house in Chantilly.
A recipe for lines out the door?
Not quite, and not yet.
Let’s start with what works: Cheers all around for the soup dumplings, swollen with steaming (pork and chicken) broth and best tackled by nibbling a hole in the top or side and pouring a splash of black vinegar inside. The kitchen, led by former Kyirisan chef de cuisine Nyi Nyi Myint, makes 100 pieces on weekdays, more on weekends, and they’re a good reason to acquaint yourself with the rethought restaurant and bar.
Bao buns, also made here, find zesty ground chicken swaddled in a fluffy pillow, its bottom crisped in a cast-iron pan. I’m also partial to the donburi, a big bowl of steamed rice decked out with slices of panko-crusted chicken (or braised pork belly), a fried egg and bright pickles. Combine the ingredients with your chopsticks, and you’ve got a homey Japanese dinner.
So far, so fine. But did anyone actually give the dining room a test run before reopening the doors?
The lighting resembles that of a cave. Online photographs of the interior suggest a romanticized opium den crossed with a tea room. As much as I’d like to tell you about the murals, I can’t see them. Not even when I borrow a couple of votive candles from vacant tables can my party read the menu. Worse, low tables and hard white benches make eating difficult and lingering unthinkable. Thirty minutes into my last visit, a companion motions to his back and says, “Let’s get the check.” There’s unfinished business on the table but no interest in wrapping up the skewered shrimp, onion and pineapple, their flavors masked by layers of sauces and seemingly a shaker’s worth of salt. On two occasions, the dish is a lone letdown from the kitchen.
It doesn’t help that some of the signature cocktails are off, by a mile. “We’re training a new bartender,” says our most recent server. She seems to be apologizing for the glacial wait for drinks rather than their sloppy execution. Suffice it to say, I’ve had Shirley Temples that tasted stronger than the Singapore sling made at Ten Tigers Parlour.
Ma and Myint are more or less doing their part to fill the room. They could use more support, as could customers. Let there be flashlights and cushions.
3813 Georgia Ave. NW. 202-506-2080. tentigersdc.com. Small plates, $6 to $11.