The food at Chloe, the debut restaurant award-winning chef turned restaurateur Haidar Karoum is formally unveiling Friday, January 5, bounces between the Middle East and Mid-Atlantic at will.
“I didn’t want to get stuck in one type of genre — it’s a culmination of all my experiences not just in the kitchen but also from traveling, my childhood, friendships, cookbooks,” Karoum says of the self-styled eatery he’s planted in bustling Navy Yard (1331 Fourth Street SE).
Featured dishes ($11 to $26) include roasted chicken with Vietnamese-style greens and a toasted chili-lime sauce; grilled Berkshire pork chop with escarole and Calabrian chilies; and roasted kaleidoscope carrots and parsnips with vadouvan labne and crispy amaranth. His Lebanese roots will also manifest via his dad’s favorite snack: crispy cauliflower with lemon, tahini, toasted pine nuts, and mint. Seafood options are also sprinkled across the menu, with broiled local oysters, crudo, Alaskan halibut, and Maine scallops currently in play.
Some dishes are inspired by summers spent in the south of Germany and Copenhagen, though he doesn’t want to play up personal ties too much.
“The last thing I’d want to do is get caught up in the ‘everything has a story’ because that’s annoying,” Karoum says.
The original star chef at Proof, Estadio, and Doi Moi called it quits in 2016 to take a break from a 17-year career in commercial kitchens. Chloe’s arrival has sparked a reunion of sorts with co-workers from across his culinary career — ranging from sous chefs he’s labored alongside since 2001 to former line cooks from Doi Moi.
“It’s like we’re getting the band back together,” Karoum says.
Tyler Mitchell, another former colleague, is heading up the beverage program. The bar, directly to the left of the entrance, will feature 13 wines by the glass ($12 to $20), nine beers ($8 to $10), and an inaugural lineup of seven $12 cocktails including Hanky Panky (barrel-aged gin, Yzaguirre Rojo Reserva, Fernet Branca) and Blood & Sand (Banknote peated Scotch, cherry liqueur, vermouth, and orange juice).
The 3,200-square-foot establishment put together by designcase includes elements of nature, with different stones and woods lining the L-shaped space, and potted greens hovering over the open kitchen.
“I want it to be comfortable so that it doesn’t feel too stuffy,” Karoum tells Eater. “You can come here in jeans, no problem.”
Chloe is named for Karoum’s eldest niece, as well as the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture. Guests can meet the real life Chloe — who’s currently in grade school but will be flying in with her family from Las Vegas for opening night — this weekend.
“She’s super excited her uncle named his first restaurant after her,” Karoum says.
In the coming weeks, Karoum expects to add streamlined lunch service (think: three to five rotating dishes) into the mix; tentative offerings include classic banh mi sandwiches and crispy shrimp burgers. He says he’s already gotten lots of requests from the nearby Wework office “which is sick of getting Potbelly catered.”
“Places like that will be a huge support,” he estimates.