Remember the name Mackenzie Kitburi: You'll be hearing it a lot over the next few months. The up-and-coming chef is about to debut two pop-ups that he hopes will eventually lead to a full-fledged restaurant.
Kitburi, a Prince George's County-raised chef who now lives in the District, did stints at upscale restaurants such as Fiola, Marcel's and Range before starting his own pop-up company, Capital Taste. Before that, he soaked up culinary and artistic influence from his Thai family, and his world champion ice-carver father, Chan Kitburi. Now, he says, his family inspiration comes from his children -- which is why he named his first project, a pop-up at EatsPlace, after his daughter, Delilah.
"The goal is, one day I want to have my own place, and I think [EatsPlace] will be a good measuring stick for me," Kitburi says. "This will be the first time that I will be running the whole full-service restaurant."
Delilah, which made its debut this week, is more upscale than the restaurant incubator's previous offerings, which have included biscuits, southern food and Chinese soups and dumplings. Though Delilah's menu will change weekly, look for sophisticated offerings such as cauliflower three ways (roasted, pureed, foamed) with a green curry gel, or a butternut ravioli with boquerones and young coconut. He describes his style as "a little spice from places all over the world."
Every time he creates a menu, as a tribute to his heritage, "I've tried to throw something a little Thai-inspired in there -- whether it [is] a curry or just fresh lime juice or fish sauce," Kitburi says.
After his EatsPlace stint, which lasts until April 4, Kitburi will take off the training wheels. Beginning May 7, he will take a residency in the Capitol Skyline Hotel for an upscale 11-course pop-up called "Contours: Experiments in Seasonal Cuisine."
"I chose the name because the owners of the hotel, they're very much into art," says Kitburi, referring to renowned art collectors Don and Mera Rubell. "The contour line is like an outline, and I think this pop-up that we're going to do next is going to be the outline of the future."
The pop-up, presented by restaurant consultant Dave Hansen's Hansen-Daye Group, will activate the hotel's long-neglected restaurant. Expect a lengthy tasting menu with wine pairings -- pricey, at $185 per person, but with a premium-ingredient menu of lobster claws, ostrich eggs and blowfish and escolar crudo.
The ticket sales will benefit the Washington Project for the Arts, so a portion of the price will be tax deductible. Tickets will go on sale via Eventbrite in two weeks, and there will be one seating of 55 people each night through June 6. Hansen will soon announce a local bar operator who will take over the hotel bar, which overlooks the Skyline's famed pool.
After that? Keep your eyes peeled for Kitburi's next move.
EatsPlace, 3607 Georgia Ave. NW. 202-882-3287. Thursday-Saturday only. (Metro: Petworth)