Opening October 7, Immigrant Food brings “Gastroadvocacy” and a world fusion menu to Planet Word Museum as Immigrant Food+.
By day, Immigrant Food‘s newest location, Immigrant Food+, will offer its signature mix of lunch-friendly fusion bowls and sandwiches. By night, the space will transition to an upscale dining destination, bringing life to Planet Word museum after hours.
As language and words are nuanced and layered with the power to connect people, so too is Immigrant Food’s mission to celebrate, advocate and educate on behalf of immigrants. So when the opportunity arose for award-winning chef Enrique Limardo and his team to open a third location in Planet Word Museum at the corner of 13th and K Streets in Northwest D.C., they jumped at it.
“The values and the synergies were clear to us from the very start,” Immigrant Food Chief Operating Officer Téa Ivanovic says on how the partnership made sense on both ends.
Ivanovic adds, “The museum is so beautiful and different. It’s the museum of language and celebrates how language has influenced culture. It’s perfect because [our] restaurant celebrates immigrants and what immigrants have brought to this country.”
Led by chef Mile Montezuma, the kitchen will turn out a lunch menu featuring items from the cause-casual restaurant’s other locations by the White House and Union Market: think fresh and creative bowls such as Viet Vibes, which blends Vietnamese and Caribbean staple ingredients and flavors, like rice noodles and pho aromatics with adobo spice chicken and mango — or the Mumbai Mariachi bowl inspired by immigrants from Mexico, India and Greece. Geared toward the daytime crowd of museum guests and nearby office workers, bowls, sandwiches and snacks will be available for dine-in or takeout from a designated grab-and-go spot in the restaurant.
When night falls, the grab-and-go area will be hidden by a divider and the space — which already has a more elevated feel compared to its counterparts — will segue to offer an upscale dining experience.
Immigrant Food+ will be the first museum restaurant in D.C. to remain open after museum hours. With Limardo’s background in fine dining (Seven Reasons, Imperfecto) and Montezuma’s experience as his right-hand woman running kitchens, Ivanovic says it was a natural move for the Immigrant Food brand to branch out in offering an upscale model.
As Ivanovic explains, “The exciting gastronomic part of this is it’s the same concept of fusing different cuisines and different gastronomy immigrants have brought, but just done on another level.”
From continent-influenced cocktails to dishes blending world flavors, those with a travel itch will find a culinary adventure in the evening menu offerings. Although Limardo is known for his Latin and Mediterranean cuisine at his other D.C. restaurants, Immigrant Food+ will feature so much more. There will be a selection of shareable starters from across the map including alphabet soup (a nod to Planet Word), seared tuna tataki and crispy fried tequenos.
Triple-decker bamboo steamers, part of the menu’s dim sum experience, will be filled with globally inspired items such as tuna tartare with pineapple, daikon, avocado and shiso leaf. Plus, buns stuffed with pork (cochinita pibil) topped with pickled onions, spicy mayo and cilantro, and chicken kataifi with ground chicken and spicy passion fruit enveloped in kataifi dough. Main plates will include familiar dishes with a twist: a Russian Salad Rebuilt with potato, beet, aji amarillo mayo foam, poached egg and snap peas will debut alongside a version of chicken Milanesa featuring cassava breading, tomato sauce, cheese, mashed potato and gravy among other large-format dishes.
And then there are the cocktails. Cruise through the continents with a list of seven specialty drinks developed by Minibar alumna, Morgan Barron. Each cocktail showcases ingredients reflective of the continent it represents and takes its name from a book with ties to the geographical region, bringing in the literary theme. Take the Don Quixote cocktail, paying homage to Europe with its classic flavors of cognac, sherry, Grand Marnier, amaretto and chocolate bitters or Antarctica’s Terra Incognita –- a crisp, clean cocktail made with fennel liqueur, aquavit, dry vermouth, blanc vermouth and absinth.
The team worked hard to design connections between the restaurant and the language-centric museum. One of the clearest tie-ins will come in the form of a custom bar.
A project in collaboration with the museum, the bar is inlaid with book covers from immigrant authors running the spectrum from scientists to novelists. It will also include letters written by immigrants to their home countries in their native language.
“It really makes that connection,” Ivanovic says of the bar buildout. “Language and literature – a lot of that is immigrants and what they have brought. It’s just one example of how we’re trying to make the connection with a museum where our values are so similar.”
Another key addition to the custom piece? The word “Home,” written in 27 languages.
As with the other Immigrant Food locations, Ivanovic says the third restaurant will champion the advocacy work that is integral to the brand’s mission by continuing to offer an Engagement Menu and working with NGO partners while celebrating the cultural contributions of immigrants.
“There [are] two beating hearts to Immigrant Food: one is gastronomy and the other is advocacy. It’s something we’re 100% committed to continuing in this location.”