American Son starts running on all cylinders on Monday, October 15, bringing downtown diners an all-day destination for inventive American dishes from an established D.C. chef.
Tim Ma’s restaurant sits on the lobby level of the months-old Eaton DC hotel (1201 K Street NW), an evolving hospitality and co-working site already packed with a cafe and rooftop and lobby bars. Breakfast and lunch service began last week. Now dinner and a late-night menu round out the rotation.
The name of the restaurant is an ode to Ma’s experiences growing up as a second-generation American in Arkansas. Ingredients and techniques influenced by his family’s background can be spotted across its all-day lineup, a spread that showcases Ma’s vision of comfort food seen through a global lens.
“Being born in America in 1978 was a terrible time for Asians to be in Arkansas — I was harassed on the way to school. Subconsciously, my parents raised us to be as American as possible,” says Ma, who never learned how to speak Chinese. Over a decade ago, he ditched an engineering career to enroll in The French Culinary Institute and follow his dreams of opening his own restaurant.
Ma’s latest menu features a vegetarian bent, with charred romaine Caesar; tofu gnocchi with sunchoke and black truffle; and sharable spaghetti squash Ssam. Carnivores will take note of the signature American Son burger on the lunch menu and the beef cheek — complemented by coffee, Anson Mills Perla Bianco corn, wood-fired rapini and charred peach — for dinner.
American Son’s opening comes nearly three years after Ma brought French-Asian fusion cooking to Shaw with the arrival of Kyirisan. His second D.C. restaurant in the center of the city is almost three times as big, with 150 seats across its bar, lounge, and dining areas within view of a massive open kitchen.
Like its neighboring month-old cafe Kintsugi, which serves rotating gluten-free and vegan pastries along with fair trade coffee from Red Rooster Coffee of Floyd, Virginia, American Son plays up Eaton’s wellness ethos throughout its opening menu.
“I think what has been the most interesting thing is we have been challenged to do something different and change our thinking — while also doing what we like,” says Ma. “We are incorporating everything D.C. knows and turning it on its head a little bit.”
Seasonal produce (think spicy fish peppers) will eventually be plucked from the hotel’s in-the-works rooftop garden. Meat is procured from local purveyors like zero-waste farm Green Circle Chicken.
The roomy atmosphere inside integrates lots of chrome accents, with sleek moss-colored chairs that help highlight the sea of potted and hanging plants covering the space.
The space, originally slated for a Mediterranean restaurant, features a wood-fired pizza oven. There’s no pizza at American Son, but Ma’s using the oven to make large-format dishes that heavily rely on proteins and vegetables. Sharable platters ($55 to $100) include a bone-in ribeye and fried whole red snapper with papaya salad and fried rice.
Here’s a look at the opening dinner menu: