Sasha Felikson is no longer executive chef at Asian-inspired eatery Doi Moi — he’s switching gears by helping revamp Dacha Beer Garden’s menu, sprinkling in influences from the same Eastern European heritage he shares with the owners of the expanding Shaw enterprise.
The five-year-old beer garden (1600 Seventh Street NW) tapped the Ukranian chef — a 2017 Rammys Rising Culinary Star of the Year finalist — to help improve and elevate its food lineup ahead of its massive 4,500-square-foot location projected to land next to Nationals Park later this summer (the plan is to break ground this month).
Felikson’s role is currently as a consultant, and existing executive chef Oscar Villatoro still remains on board. Felikson confirmed via a Facebook post this weekend he’s “no longer” with 14th Street NW hotspot Doi Moi; The Max Kuller-run restaurant group — which recently lost Proof chef Austin Fausett to a Chicago move — has not yet returned a request for comment.
“Our goal is to bring people here to actually eat more, especially during the week,” Dacha co-owner Dmitri Chekaldin, originally from the Soviet Union, tells Eater. ”Eastern European food can be on the bland side, and we don’t want to do that. We want interesting things with flavor — not necessarily spice.”
The newly expanded menu, first released on February 28, is now broken up into a few sections: “beer garden essentials,” appetizers, entrees, and, for the first time, a dessert option dubbed “we’re gonna be bad.” Oreshki, a traditional Eastern European finale, is composed of shortbread cookie bites with dolce de leche filling.
Felikson, who is friends with Chekaldin and a longtime loyal customer, stresses that lots of Dacha favorites (like the monster pretzel) aren’t going anywhere.
“When people heard I was consulting I got like five text messages saying, ‘If you change the pretzel I will [expletive] kill you,’” says Felikson. “I am a D.C.-ite and a foodie before a chef and don’t want to see that stuff go.”
His alterations to the iconic beer accompaniment included adding more side sauces like stout beer cheese, dill mustard, and béarnaise mustard into the mix.
The fried pickles are also staying put.
Under Felikson’s watch, Coca-Cola braised pork sliders get added flavor via an infusion of 30 spices. “Coke is like the soy sauce of America,” says Felikson. They’re topped with blistered shishito peppers to break up bites with a cool crunch.
A new wedge salad is a hybrid of a traditional wedge, Cobb, and Caesar. Topped with Caesar dressing and dill chimichurri, wedges are dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, with extra texture via crispy garlic and shallots. Greek anchovies are marinated in a red pepper sauce, then topped with freshly-grated parmesan (“one of the greatest things of all time,” says Felikson).
“We want the food to be beer garden food. You can sit outside, eat it with your hands, and most importantly, share it with friends because the tables are huge,” he says.
Dacha’s beer lineup was also expanded with the addition of Solace of Virginia and Union Brewery from Baltimore, as well as Ommegang and Allagash. This spring and summer, Dacha will be one of a few D.C. locations to carry Bold Rock’s Rosé Cider.