This Saturday, the luxurious Hotel Monaco is launching Dirty Habit, an all-new restaurant and bar in what was formerly Poste Moderne Brasserie. I recently attended a chic pop-up preview at Union Market’s Lab 1270 where I got the chance to sample several cocktails and delicious snacks.
Executive Chef Kyoo Eom remains head of the kitchen, and he’s developing new dishes in collaboration with head bartender Sarah Ruiz, who hails from San Francisco. Ruiz helped launch the original Dirty Habit in the city by the bay. While the Penn Quarter eatery shares the name, the dining experience, both in flavor and décor, are entirely unique to DC.
“I get to do whatever I want with the menu,” Kyoo admits happily.
He is delighted to work with Ruiz on developing flavor profiles for all the menu items.
“We already have a very good relationship.”
He’s also kept Kieu-Linh from Poste on as pastry chef. Her perfect dessert of sponge cake, hazelnut and lots of chocolate was beautiful and a little bit of heaven on my tongue. I couldn’t resist and had several. Menu items at Dirty Habit will primarily consist of small plates under $20, so you and your friends can try multiple dishes. Every night, about 30 items will be available to try.
“We’re doing everything,” Chef Kyoo says. “I like to order lots of different food.”
He’s also handy with leftovers and lets nothing go to waste, so ingredients he intended for one night’s cheese plate could end up on a completely unique skewer combination the next.
My favorite example of the chef’s creativity at the pop-up came in the form of a skewer stacked with a stuffed green olive, grilled octopus and a morsel of spicy chorizo. It’s a combination I didn’t expect, and it was delicious. He also did delightful things with eggplant, as well as tuna tartare, and created a one-of-a-kind dipping sauce for lightly fried calamari.
While the chef’s originally from Korea and loves adding Asian-inspired flavor to his dishes, the menu at Dirty Habit will be global, flexible and experimental – but also super tasty. “I want to see a lot of smiles in the dining room,” he says.
Ruiz had never been to DC before she took the job. She’s excited by the active and ever-evolving bar scene in the District.
“It’s time to strike while the iron is hot,” she says. “There’s a ton of talent here, and I’m proud to join the community.”
At the pop-up, she served a refreshing “welcome” punch while attendees waited for their meticulously crafted cocktails to be mixed. It was a thoughtful, personal touch on her part to keep us happy and prepare us for the main event.
My favorite of the night, which will be available at the restaurant, is the Rice ‘N Roses, made from Nigori saki, unfiltered vodka, lychee, rose and almond. Fruity and tropical without being overly sweet, it packed a nice little punch.
Also try the Matcha Picchu, made from pisco, guava, Falernum, matcha, citrus and egg white. The matcha gives it a Scooby snack color (remember those from the 90s?), but is way more sophisticated and mellow. Ruiz works with gin and rye too, as well as exotic ingredients like Chinese five-spice bitters.
The entire Poste space has been remodeled for what designers are a calling an “apocalyptic” vibe. The décor is part rustic, part industrial and includes communal tables as well as cozy private corners for two. The space is seductively edgy and noir – perfectly suited for a romantic evening snack after a theatre or concert performance.
“I’m blown away by the space,” Ruiz says. “It’s so much bigger and cooler than San Francisco.”
There will be three different bars, including one on the outdoor patio, and each will serve things up a little bit differently from one another.
“This place is multifaceted,” Ruiz says. “We don’t know how it will evolve. There are no rules.”
Dirty Habit: 555 8th St. NW, DC; www.dirtyhabitdc.com