The hardest thing about dining at Spoken English is second guessing every order as another tantalizing dish whizzes by.
The standing-room-only eatery tucked inside the new Line hotel is the second restaurant its chef Erik Bruner-Yang has opened in Adams Morgan. The first was Brothers and Sisters, the wildly popular all-day restaurant spread just across the lobby at Line.
“What is that?” is a common refrain at the week-old dining room. Bruner-Yang originally planned to make Spoken English a tasting menu spot, but then took things in an entirely different direction. He settled on a la carte offerings served at communal tables along with beer, sake, and cocktails — an homage to lively tachinomiya bars in Japan.
“People are more than welcome just to come and have drinks. It doesn’t have to be about a ‘food experience,’’’ Bruner-Yang wants diners to know.
The menu descriptions are vague on purpose. Bruner-Yang tells Eater he wants customers to experience things for themselves rather than begin each meal with preconceived notions. Those who file into the one-room restaurant nightly are greeted with over a dozen dishes including gourmet skewers, small plates, larger offerings, and a pair of desserts. Chefs de cuisine Matthew Crowley and James Wozniuk are in charge of executing Bruner-Yang’s culinary vision.
“I think at this point, we’ve really moved away from trying to feel like we’re the authenticators of traditional food and we just have our own style,” Bruner-Yang says, resisting any urges to quickly categorize his restaurant. “There are snippets of everything here .... but it’s more our version of it.”
Below, check out the kitchen in action and some of the menu’s early favorites, according to Bruner-Yang.
Duck feast: At least so far, Bruner-Yang says the restaurant has not had a problem keeping up with orders for this family-style dinner. It’s $98 for the featured bird plus tortillas, duck confit salad, hoisin sauce, and other condiments.
Green Hill camembert: “This is our grilled cheese,” Bruner-Yang says of a hunk of gooey camembert planted atop toast bolstered by smoked olive oil and bits of honeycomb. It sounds simple but tastes complex due to the smokey depth of flavor.
Twice baked potato: Spoken English dresses up its baked potato with briny fish eggs and buttery sea urchin. The cooking method lends it a crispy skin and creamy flesh.
Caviar: Savory caviar and sweet seaweed jam meet atop a fluffy Japanese pancake with a pudding-like center.
Wagyu short rib: This skewer holds three cubes of well-marbled wagyu short ribwith accents of salty anchovy and spicy wasabi.
Carabinero prawn: ”I’m going to eat that whole head though,” a woman alerts Bruner-Yang as he separates the top of a grilled prawn from its body and drizzles the tender meat with the natural juices contained within.
Chicken skin dumpling: One of the kitchen’s most labor intensive creations, the fist-sized chicken skin dumpling at Spoken English is two meals in one. The knot of golden brown skin at the very top crunches like pork rinds. Inside awaits a mound of seasoned rice that soaks up the accompanying chile-spiked ginger dipping sauce.
Fermented durian curry: Both Bruner-Yang and chef de cuisine James Wozniuk pointed out that the lone noodle dish on the menu also happens to be vegan. The featured spaghetti squash swims in a hot and sour sauce composed of red curry paste mixed with durian that’s been fermented for two weeks. Sliced chile peppers amp up the heat, while torn mint leaves add freshness.
Chicken yakitori: The chicken yakitori meal costs $25 per person and features eight servings of chicken prepared in different ways: from crackling chicken skin that’s perfect for scooping up a tangy-sweet sambal sauce to a crumbly meatball planted in a pool of egg yolk to a cup of warmchicken soup.
Scroll to the bottom to see the menu in full.
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