Famed Chinese chef-restaurateur Philippe Chow just unveiled his first stateside restaurant outside New York City. Celeb-magnet Manhattan opulence is on full display at its shiny new Southwest Waterfront edition, complete with sweeping views of bobbing boats along the Washington Channel. Plush purple banquettes set the table for Chow’s sophisticated, yet modern, Beijing-style menu that mirrors its two concrete-jungle counterparts.
Chow’s new 250-seat power spot with a 100-seat wraparound patio sits at the base of the luxury new Amaris condo complex (635 Wharf Street SW). Dinner service runs Sunday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. and until 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, when the bar stays open late.
Chow’s original showpiece debuted on the Upper East Side in 2005 and quickly amassed a devoted A-list following for family-style favorites like Peking duck theatrically carved tableside. Other dishes taking center stage include glistening honey-glazed spare ribs, filet mignon, and lobster several ways: in fried rice and noodles, as well as whole and the favorite salt-and-pepper version. The appetizer section showcases eight kinds of steamed or wok-fried dumplings, plus lettuce wraps, spring rolls, “grand” walnut sesame prawns, and a handful of satays smothered in decadent peanut sauce.
The Hong Kong-trained chef also leans heavy on seafood, from seasoned wok-fried prawns to drunken sea bass. Two-pound red King crab legs are also available, with a ginger-scallion dipping sauce that finds its way into several dishes across the menu.
Non-meat dishes aren’t lost; there’s a host of vegetable sides like crispy seaweed with candied walnuts, salt-and-pepper eggplant, and crispy cauliflower. A golden-outside, creamy-inside tofu comes with a touch of garlic.
Now more on that duck. Chow brings in his specialty roast-to-order $115 Peking duck, carved tableside with sweet-sour plum sauce and homemade scallion pancakes. Three days to make, it requires a 45-to-60 minute advance notice before arriving. Each order is good for three to four people, and Peking chicken is also available for $65 if duck is a too-rich option. The restaurant reportedly runs through upwards of 40 ducks daily.
Complementing the sliced-and-diced fowl is a viral fire-and-ice dessert. Chow’s pastry chefs craft together yogurt, fruit, and chocolate syrup to make a creamy Baked Alaska. Once frozen, it’s topped with a foot-high fluff of cotton candy, which is then torched with 150-proof liquor and set aflame.
“The restaurant is an experience,” says CEO Abraham Merchant. “It’s opulent but not intimidating.”
An elaborate cocktail program is under the highly curated care of bar manager Amir Babayoff, and Chow grants him broad leeway to complement the food. Richer, complex drinks stand up to spicy, bold meats and sauces, and brighter, herbaceous, and spirit-forward drinks let more delicate seafood dishes sing. Groups can also opt for a four-course tasting experience ($95 or $145 per person) to sample a cross-section of the menu.
A lychee martini, for example, has genever, vodka, and sake, brought together by a whole lychee; a darker, more layered drink is a take on an espresso martini with vodka, coconut and banana liquors, coffee liquor, espresso, and hazelnut, topped with a fluff of egg white. There are beers and wines, as well as zero-proof drinks that include homemade syrups and flavorings.
A lavish look from D.C. design firm //3877 meets Chow’s request to make its dining room make guests feel “pampered and enveloped in luxury,” says Merchant. The long, handsome bar has deep brass, crystal, and mirror details.
Star sightings at the glitzy, white-tablecloth stalwart in NYC have included actor Forest Whitaker, Nick Cannon, Rihanna, and Adam Sandler. Merchant notes that new location has already fielded a number of calls from D.C.’s own version of celebrities wanting to reserve one of two private dining rooms. Chow took notes from some of the city’s furtive enclaves, as D.C.’s VIP dining rooms have both private entrance/exits, as well as their own entrance to the restrooms.
Outside, the wraparound restaurant features fireplaces, umbrellas, and a panorama of sleek sailboats and fellow celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s hulking Hell’s Kitchen. Merchant says that the move to D.C. was a logical one, and in the works for several years before a slight pandemic pause.
“D.C. is a very sophisticated and global town, and has always been our top choice for our first restaurant outside of New York,” he says. “The restaurant scene here is undoubtedly one of the best in the country and the world.”
The restaurant will soon expand hours to brunch, though the menu will remain the much the same. Philippe Chow has confirmed six future restaurants, including ones in Nashville and Miami’s SoFi neighborhood.