Polar vortex? What polar vortex?
Despite the temperature plummeting to a brutal 15 degrees and as many minutes guaranteed waiting to get in, more than 300 gastronomy groupies showed up for the one-year anniversary of restaurateur Mike Isabella’s Industry Takeover Night on Monday.
A gourmet frat party with heart (about 50 percent of the proceeds go to charity), every month Isabella invites his besties in the food business to take over his kitchen at Graffiato. Amazing food, hip hop music and non-stop Instagraming ensue.
The $10 all-you-can-eat soiree isn’t for anyone who enjoys personal space or big toe safety. But what the night lacks in elbow room it makes up for in proximity to chef-lebrities (sorry). You’ll no doubt bump into someone while trying to eat a fist-sized burrata stuffed meatball, but that someone might just be a culinary rock star.
It was Jonah Kim, executive chef of Pabu at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, who told me I had to try “the Asian borscht with Korean style pork belly.” This was right after Kim’s close friend, Danny Lee of Mandu, asked if he should make “a Jameson run” before the unofficial after party later that night in Mandu’s kitchen. The two said they like their whiskey mixed with “a little kimchi juice.”
“Wait, what is this again?” asked one woman as she piled Top Chef alum Jennifer Carroll’s shellfish escabeche onto her plate. “No clue,” replied her friend before nibbling on another dish, “but this one’s really good too.” That would be the borscht with pork belly.
You’d think that at a party thrown and attended by some of the hottest names in the restaurant business there’d be a lot of signage. No one’s expecting all-you-can-eat chic sneeze guards, but a place card or two could help let people know exactly what they’re oohing and aahing over. Clearly the party’s not really about the food, it’s about the folks who make it.
Downstairs Isabella looked over the crowd, which showed no signs of slowing down at 11:30 p.m. “Can you believe it?” he said as folks clamored for more of Del Campo chef Victor Albisu’s smoked beef tongue, blood sausage and chorizo. “And on a Monday night? In DC?”