Dear members of the Georgetown community: are you aware that Washington, D.C., is one of the best fusion food scenes in the world? Continuing my column on the theme of multiculturalism, this installment will be focused on food, a particularly fun aspect of culture mixing.
Last summer, I was walking down the street of San Francisco, Calif., with my grandparents — nearly starving to death — when I pulled up Yelp and had a revelation. Within a three-block radius, I could find food from every continent in a variety of styles: Egyptian, Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, you name it!
It occurred to me that likely nowhere else in the world except the United States would this expansive, authentic food diversity take place. Multiculturalism has strengthened our country, and one way we all benefit from it is the massive diversity of cuisine.
But this diversity is in no way unique to San Francisco. In fact, the District’s history as a cosmopolitan city and “gateway to the South” has created a distinct cultural climate that manifests itself in great food.
From Black Americans arriving in D.C. during the Great Migration to the District’s large Vietnamese and Ethiopian communities (the Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area happens to hold the largest Ethiopian enclave outside of Ethiopia!), the food of D.C. reflects all the groups which left an imprint. Without further ado, here are some great D.C. fusion recommendations from myself, with the help of food columnist Audrey Biles.
($) = meal under $15, ($$) = meal under $25, ($$$) = meal over $25
Curry & Pie ($): First up on the list is a bit of a no-brainer. Close, affordable and pretty dang good, Georgetown’s Curry and Pie is too convenient not to miss. While it excels in classic Indian dishes (I’d recommend the Saag Paneer or the Chicken Tikka Masala), the restaurant’s eponymous “Pies” provide a South Asian twist on pizza, such as the mango chicken pie. Great for sharing, Curry & Pie pushes past being a simple Indian joint to deliver something truly original.
Susheria ($$): Another nearby specialty, this modernist joint offers a unique Japanese-Peruvian fusion in naturally tasting amalgams. As a lover of sushi and spice, Susheria hits the spot like no other cuisine, showcasing the distinct power of fusion food. Susheria also marries classic Japanese rice bowls with Peruvian proteins (and spiciness) to create filling and fascinating dishes.
Kaliwa ($$$): The third entry on this list comes from the rapidly revitalized Wharf — and sports not only two, but three cuisines in one place! Relying on the distinct flavor signatures of the Philippines, Thailand and Korea, Kaliwa specializes in turning out dishes classic to each nation with a twist. For a lover of Thai food such as myself, Kaliwa doesn’t shy away from flavor — each bite is a mouthwatering mixture of sweet, salty, tangy and spicy. From lumpia to pad thai to kimchi, this restaurant specializes in delivering foods that twist the new with the old.
Mariscos 1133 ($$): This Latin American seafood joint occupies a special place in my heart. While not inter-continental fusion, Mariscos’ distinct style is nevertheless hard to track down. Basically, Mariscos derives flavor from anywhere that speaks Spanish and touches water. The appetizers are shockingly good, with dishes like the octopus ceviche, lobster guacamole and queso fundido, and the large main dishes are nothing to sleep on either. The menu has a large price range, be it a simple Latin style Po’ Boy or surf and turf extravaganza, and I guarantee your only regret will be not ordering more.
Chaia ($): Moving back into Georgetown, Chaia is an interesting take on tacos and other Latin-inspired foods: it’s all vegetarian. Chaia gets creative by substituting seasonal vegetables for meat, and succeeds in pushing the boundary of what constitutes a “taco.” From the kale and potato taco to my favorite, the sweet potato nachos, the changing menu always has something new to offer.
Cranes ($$$): Ending our journey in Chinatown, we finish with the classic Spanish-Japanese fusion. Cranes serves up classic Japanese food as well as fusion inventions in Spain’s famous small-dish style. From the stuffed Spanish mackerel to shishito peppers, each dish is dazzling to the eyes and makes a meal here truly memorable. A perfect restaurant for special occasions or a major splurge, Cranes does fusion food in the classiest way possible.
These six locations are just a few examples of what makes D.C. such a powerhouse of cookery. Break the Georgetown bubble, and get out there! Whenever you take a bite of delicious fusion food, make sure not to forget the luck of living in such a cosmopolitan city in such a cosmopolitan country.
Noah Portner is a sophomore in the College. Culture Shock will appear online and in print every other week.