Award-winning chef turned aspiring restaurateur Haidar Karoum is making a comeback in a big way, opening up his first solo restaurant project this fall in Navy Yard.
The original star chef at Proof, Estadio, and Doi Moi called it quits about a year ago to “take a nice little break” after grinding in the kitchen for 17 years, he tells Eater.
Now he’s ready to put his chef hat back on and introduce a new 103-seat modern American restaurant expected to pair seasonal mid-Atlantic fare with influences from his extensive travels to Western Europe and Southeast Asia.
The restaurant will be located in Arris, a newly completed building at 1331 4th St. SE.
Chloe is named for Karoum’s eldest niece, as well as the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture. The 3,200-square-foot space, by designCASE, will feature an open kitchen with a green herb wall and outdoor patio space.
The D.C. native mentioned scouring the city’s “usual suspects” — Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, Shaw — before landing at The Yards, where there’s a “lot of potential for growth and energy,” he says.
A sampling of menu items will include roast chicken and crispy whole fish with lime, chilies and herbs, as well as pastas such as goat cheese cavatelli with heirloom tomatoes.
Seafood will also be a big focus (think: bacalao crudo dressed with Antiboise). His Lebanese roots will also manifest via his dad’s favorite dish: crispy cauliflower with lemon, tahini, toasted pine nuts and mint. Odes to his experience in Southeast Asian cooking will include crispy shrimp banh mi.
Packing in an array of global influences is intentional, he says, so as to not pigeonhole himself.
“I love cuisine so much. I would hate to be narrowed down into a very specific genre,” he says. “I hope to have other concepts in the future, but this is going to be my baby.”
Expect quick lunch options and bar bites targeted at Nationals fans. And fans of rosé can rejoice, as the outdoor patio bar will serve both still and sparkling types on tap. Tyler Mitchell, a longtime former colleague, will head up the beverage program.
The main mentor he’s kept in mind through Chloe’s conception is late restaurateur Mark Kuller, who’s “very much in his thoughts” when it comes to planning out the design and other details.
Chloe’s opening is bittersweet, as Karoum helped Kuller open his own first restaurant, Proof, over a decade ago. He cooked by his side thereafter, departing the restaurant group about a year after Kuller’s death in 2014.
Eater recently profiled Max Kuller, who is attempting to carry on his father’s legacy.
“We had a really incredible relationship. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often — you’re lucky if it happens in a lifetime,” Karoum estimates. “I don’t think it would be fair to say what I learned from him was just tied to restaurants — I learned life lessons from him.”