Kirby Membership restaurant overview: Luscious dips and kebabs in Fairfax – The Washington Submit


In Egypt, the place Omar Hegazi was raised, falafel are the go-to road snack. They’re made with dried fava beans, says the opening chef on the freshly minted Kirby Membership in Fairfax, and are known as taameya — “tasty chew” in Arabic. The dish isn’t offered by portion measurement. As an alternative, a buyer tells a vendor how a lot he desires to spend for the treats, that are served in a cone of newspaper. The presentation at Kirby Membership is completely different — the falafel arrive 5 to a $12 plate, with pita for stuffing and tahina for dipping — however the taste springs from the identical coriander, garlic and onion Hegazi remembers from his youthful grazing in Cairo.

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Falafel are one cause to discover the newest eating attraction within the Mosaic District in Northern Virginia. Co-owner Rose Previte is one other. She’s the imaginative and prescient behind the favored Maydan and Compass Rose eating places in Washington, identified for his or her live-fire and international cooking, respectively. For her newest act, she’s shining a light-weight on kebabs and her Lebanese heritage.

Kirby Membership feels like an unlikely identify for a restaurant with an japanese Mediterranean theme. Previte traces the concept to her maternal grandparents, who emigrated from Kherbet Kanafar, Lebanon, with pals and settled in Akron, Ohio, the place they established a social group in 1933. Figuring Kherbet Kanafar can be too troublesome for his or her new neighborhood to pronounce, the members used a nickname to reference their hometown, 40 or so miles from Beirut. Gatherings have been held in church basements, houses and elsewhere and designed to foster a way of togetherness, together with alternatives for offspring to satisfy (and match). Ohio’s Kirby Membership continues at the moment, says Previte, who says its Fb web page is maintained by a cousin.

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Located between native chains Matchbox and Alta Strada, the brand new child on the block distinguishes itself with a central bar, car-size sea-foam-colored cubicles to at least one facet and a rear wall that evokes the Nineteen Seventies with hot-pink-and-orange wallpaper. Stepping in from a humid and darkish night time one go to, we’re advised by an attendant, “It’s at all times sunny right here.” The smiling faces of Previte’s members of the family captured in blown-up pictures on a entrance wall assist make it so.

As does the meals, commencing with the intense dips you completely, positively need to strive with a number of the sizzling pita bread. Kirby Membership serves one of the best muhammara within the area. Darkish with charred pink peppers, gently crunchy with toasted walnuts and sweet-tart with pomegranate, the unfold is balanced and exquisite. The vivid havuc, made with pureed carrots and seasoned with caraway, is as clean as whipped cream, an impact achieved with the assistance of garlic whipped to a white fluff, in any other case often known as toum. A scattering of fried onions provides gratifying punctuation. There are additionally bessara, whose pale-green hue is due to cilantro within the puree of fava beans, tahini and lemon juice, and a tangy hummus dusted with sumac.

A salad of pickled Japanese eggplant, peppers and tomato opens the (fridge) door of Hegazi’s youth and introduces diners to his grandmother’s recipe. Deep-fried eggplant, stung with vinegar and seasoned with cumin and garlic, proves a scrumptious memento. The signature kebabs, alternatively, observe an R&D journey the chef and Previte took final 12 months to Turkey, the place they ate in houses in addition to eating places. One results of their mission is tepsi kebab, minced beef and lamb flattened in a cast-iron pan and baked with greens within the oven. Tomato paste, brushed on the underside of the pan, ensures zest from chew to chew.

Check, please. Please! This diner got so tired of waiting, she left.

Hegazi, 35, involves the realm from New York, the place he opened the fast-casual Zooba. However he’s no stranger to Washington, having beforehand cooked at Bourbon Steak in Georgetown and for José Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup, which despatched him to Texas to open a department of the corporate’s Center Jap-themed Zaytinya (now closed). He’s labored in California’s Napa Valley as nicely, on the esteemed Auberge du Soleil.

A diner will get a way of all that have in Hegazi’s menu, which acknowledges that the world is made up of people that need their very own plate of meals and others who don’t thoughts competing for the final morsel of no matter on a platter.

The non-sharers will rejoice over the plates for one, that includes a wide range of kebabs, that really feel like a feast, since they’re dropped off with a mattress of turmeric-tinted rice, sumac-spiked onions and a colourful salad that comes with a alternative of two dressings: a ranch made with strained yogurt and one other primarily based on the spice mix za’atar. “Surf and turf” permits you to pattern each a lamb kebab and a shrimp kebab and declare a winner. How a couple of tie? As a result of I really like the dance of clove, cinnamon, cardamom and different heat spices on the marinated meat, and the shrimp, additionally cooked over lava rocks on a fuel grill, woos simply as a lot with creamy inexperienced squiggles of pureed cilantro, parsley and saffron. Fleshy oyster mushrooms crisp up properly with out the assistance of oil or salt in a kebab perked up, just like the others, with pickled onions.

“Picnic platters” are a throwback to Previte’s childhood recollections of Labor Day spreads with Kirby Membership at a Lebanese pageant often known as Mahrajan. My present fascination is the entire roast hen, which will get brined forward of a rub of garlic, turmeric and oil and arrives on a raft of flatbread with the aforementioned fluffy rice and salad, but additionally crinkle-cut fries sprinkled with za’atar and an opportunity to audition the kitchen’s alluring rainbow of sauces. Beef ribs, cooked in a single day and completed with a pomegranate glaze, take a again seat to the succulent hen.

Vegan gentle serve marrying date with oat milk is a beautiful strategy to conclude a meal right here. When the machine wasn’t cooperating one go to, dinner nonetheless ended sweetly when a number dropped off a plate of dried apricots and bites of chewy Turkish delight.

The individuals who watch over you have a tendency to speak in exclamation factors. Their enthusiasm for the food and drinks right here comes out in gale-force descriptions. When a server notices we’ve ordered two dishes with pickled greens, she says, “You possibly can by no means have too many pickles!,” and when one other attendant sees us lapping up the white-with-garlic toum, she jokes, “Don’t go wherever afterwards!” At a time when restaurants are struggling to find talent, the hospitality at Kirby Membership appears like a hopeful signal. And I really like how serving utensils precede the arrival of dishes that require them. Large spoons sound apparent, however have you ever observed what number of eating places don’t assume to supply mandatory instruments for transferring meals from A to B on the desk?

If eating places knew how many individuals inform me they don’t go to eating places primarily based on uncomfortable sound checks, there can be extra gentle touches on the market: carpet, cloth panels, music performed at a decrease quantity. Simply making an attempt that can assist you out, Kirby Membership! As a result of consuming there’s a blast, in all senses of the phrase.

Compass Rose and Maydan are inside a pita’s toss of Previte’s house within the District. The selection of Fairfax for Kirby Membership was fueled by suburban followers who got here to Washington pre-pandemic however are much less inclined to make the trek now, having gotten used to working from house, says the restaurateur, who co-owns all three institutions with Mike Schuster, a resident of close by Falls Church. Plans are underway to open one other Kirby Membership in Clarendon in the summertime — music to the ears of these of us who may have shorter commutes to the pleasures of the newcomer’s desk.

2911 District Ave., Fairfax. 571-430-3650. Open for indoor eating 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday via Saturday. Costs: appetizers $7 to $12, kebab plates $17 to $32, picnic platters $48 to $64. Sound test: 82 decibels/Extraordinarily loud. Accessibility: Ramp results in entrance; ADA-approved restrooms. Pandemic protocols: Masks are non-obligatory for workers, all of whom are vaccinated.

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