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Chloe: Haidar Karoum’s Winding Culinary Adventure in Navy Yard

July 30, 2019

In 2018, Forbes published an article dubbing Navy Yard as “one of the coolest neighborhoods around the world.”

And though the National Park garners the majority of the fanfare, as a resident food enthusiast, I believe Chloe lends itself handsomely to this narrative.

Chloe joins a diverse and exciting concoction some of the best restaurants positioned to be huge players in Navy Yard, like quick-service Rasa, Bluejacket, & All-Purpose Riverfront; to name a few.

 

The restaurant– positioned below luxury apartment Arris on a secluded, shadowy 4th street — is award-winning chef Haidar Karoum’s debut in D.C.

 

And had the food not been so damn good I might’ve neglected to find out who’s responsible.

 

In an interview with Eater, Karoum stated: “I want it to be comfortable so that it doesn’t feel too stuffy.”

 

“You can come in here in jeans, no problem.”

 

I came in, in a pair of Birkenstocks.

 

If we felt out of place, it’s because the restaurant — while designed simply — was incredibly beautiful and groomed.

 

 

The easiness and comfortability of the space– though resting on the laurels of a clean aesthetic — is the accents of reclaimed wood used in the tables and floors.

 

Too, other aspects take into account small details for elevated comfort.

 

Organic scented hand soap and lotion in the bathroom was a consideration I could smell throughout my visit.

 

The menu is a cumulation of Karoum’s childhood, culinary adventures, and experience working with a colorful collection of cuisines like Spanish tapas at Estadio & Southeast Asian fusion at Doi Moi.

 

 

At Chloe, you can waft in and taste the sweet, yeasty aroma of churros, a fried snack traditional in Spain and Portugal.

 

Enjoy the crunchy, aromatic bite of the traditional Korean sandwich the Bahn Mi, speckled with daikon and stuffed with pork.

 

Then there is a rendition of warm banana bread, spiced french toast and chicken enchilada served with jasmine rice.

 

All featured on the brunch menu and in no particular order to indicate categorical belonging.

 

One must evaluate how much bread their waistline can handle when you see a ubiquitous brunch offering like french toast with a gyro option, a housemade croissant with gruyere with black forest ham and a poached egg served with a warm scallion biscuit.

 

One must ask, “What is the best combination to strike a perfect balance while getting the most out of your visit at Chloe?”

 

I couldn’t tell you.

 

Per our waitress, when asked how many dishes we should order, she suggested: “between two and three.. ” since they are meant to be shared.

 

“All meant to be ordered at one time?”

 

“All ordered at one time,” she advised, assuring me the chef would instinctively send the dishes.

 

I’d asked about the croissant, then the scallion biscuit paired with shiitake mushroom mornay and a poached egg.

 

She appeared uneasy with my questioning, knowing my eating of the two would lead to my demise.

 

She waited to interject.

 

I listened and sought a recommendation.

 

Highly recommended was the crispy cauliflower, and likely because it is one of the most beautiful sights to behold and taste.

 

The cauliflower undergoes the Maillard reaction, taking on a gorgeous, saturated bronzy hue.

 

 

Karoum’s use of pine nuts for crunch, tahini sauce — a staple of Middle Eastern and Meditteranean cooking — for texture and complexity, in pair with lemon juice, garlic, and mint to brighten, lift and refashion an otherwise faintly bitter and boring vegetable are so well curated I wanted a second dose.

 

What this combination accomplished is it spotlighted the more overlooked qualities of cauliflower, a taste of slightly sweet and nutty.

 

The dish is a representation, too, of how Karoum’s fine dining experience has shaped overall presentation and appeal to the senses.

 

The size of the dishes is comparable to a more substantial appetizer; hardly enough to take up any room in your stomach.

The flavors mingle together well, and the plating is neat, spotless even.

 

Every dish is presented in following the same narrative.

 

The fried egg uses the characteristics of chorizo, potato hash, romesco sauce, and scallions for a warm, balanced, and clean, but not overly punchy taste.

 

I ate as much as I could with my fork and employed a slice of grilled bread and a scallion biscuit to finish the job of what only the licking of my plate could achieve.

 

Between glasses of water, there was a single glass of $6 fresh-squeezed Valencia orange juice I’ll never forget; honeyed in taste, silky smooth and full-flavored.

 

The intensity of the color, only heightened by the glossiness of it.

 

And in the days since my visit to Chloe, I can’t help but mention how the thought of a small glass of orange juice ricochets in my mind.

 

I’m sure a few other dishes on the menu would’ve wowed me too, if not for an extended intermission between the next dish marring my enthusiasm.

 

Chloe attempts to provide harmonious, unified, and undisruptive service.

 

Shoes walk across scared the floor scared to make a sound.

 

Waiters refill drinks without dialogue, and if service isn’t needed, position themselves a comfortable distance away from the bustle of the dining room.

I didn’t so much as hear a dish clank from the open kitchen or the sizzle of an oil-slicked pan during my visit.

 

What was bothersome was when the second-order of french toast came by our table.

We watched in confusion, as the dish hovered over the table.

 

“We didn’t order a second french toast.”

 

She hurried back to the kitchen, and what I anticipated was an explanation; it never came, nor did an apology after waiting more than 20 minutes.

 

For a while, a steady stream of dishes flowed out of the kitchen without halting.

 

This would be a small gripe if each passing dish didn’t heighten my sensitivity to the fact we hadn’t received ours.

 

Despite the small infraction, when the food came, I was soothed of all my complaints as if to have a poolside popsicle on a summer day.

 

Our waiter ventured back around, eventually, asking if we’d like dessert.

 

I’d thought about the churros and then thought of the grilled bread, and the scallion biscuit I’d just had

I decided maybe I’d let my senses roam there on a second trip.

At a place like Chloe, there’s something for almost everybody with each dish telling a different story in a refined way. With Karoum’s experienced palette and travels, it’s worth a sit-down for another taste.

 

For more information on Chloe and to book a reservation, click here.

 

 

 

Asiah G.

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