Look Inside Southwest’s Transportive New Asian Restaurant, Kaliwa
After months of delays, Eat Good Food Group co-founder Cathal Armstrong is just days away from finally throwing open the doors to Kaliwa and welcoming customers to the Asian restaurant his hospitality team has been fantasizing about for years.
The latest addition to the booming Wharf complex is still ironing out the final details about its official grand opening; Armstrong tells Eater his goal is to start serving dinner on Thursday, March 22. Co-owner Meshelle Armstrong now says Kaliwa is scheduled to open at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 26 for walk-in diners. It is projected to begin taking reservations the following week.
Visitors can expect to be greeted by the sights (blazing woks), sounds (karaoke night is coming in late April), and scents (jasmine plants are strategically placed inside) of Asia — an immersive experience Armstrong, chef de cuisine Paolo Dungca, and Armstrong’s Filipino wife, Meshelle, aim to provide at their debut D.C. restaurant. Cathal Armstrong began serving an Asian tasting menu at his flagship venture, Restaurant Eve, in 2013 following a trip he took to Thailand with the short-lived, State Department-sponsored American Chef Corps.
“That’s how long we’ve been working on this,” he says of the genesis of Kaliwa. The first Asian dish he served at Restaurant Eve — panang curry — is expected to appear on Kaliwa’s menu, along with the Korean, Thai, and Filipino offerings Armstrong and Dungca have worked up for Wharf diners.
Featured items include: kinilaw, a raw seafood dish splashed with citric acid; yukgaejang, a spicy noodle soup bolstered by beef brisket; yukhoe, raw meat a la beef tartare; lechon kawali, the fried pork belly that will anchor the family-style kamayan feasts (“You lay banana leaves out and then the food comes out in wave after wave after wave,” Armstrong says of the traditional meal); and, adobo, the saucy seasoning he’s made his own by adding in caramelized garlic and lots of vinegar.
What’s not on the menu is also significant. There’s no Vietnamese or Japanese food. And no galbi or bulgogi. “In my mind, those dishes are for kids. They don’t really represent the funkiness of what’s happening in most of those Korean dishes,” Armstrong says. And the Filipino food being prepared is, in Armstrong’s mind, different than what is already out there.
“This will be chic, not grungy,” he says of his version of Filipino cuisine.
Which is not to say he won’t be doing street food. A forthcoming trailer he’s planting right outside the restaurant later this year is projected to serve offal ranging from chicken intestines to blood sausage. And Armstrong is fully committed to supplying those coming in and out of the marina with the daily provisions they really need. “If you want to go out on a boat, there’s nothing better than Asian take-out,” he says. That’s why he carved out space for a dedicated carry-out counter right by the front door.
Kaliwa is projected to serve dinner only at first, with lunch service following later on.