You don’t know what you don’t know… you know? You may think you want eggs Benedict and French toast, but if you opt to make your brunch experience different, then maybe – just maybe – you’ll be changed and strive for unconventional every time. We believe in you because it happened to us.
We already knew Chiko served amazing Asian food loved by patrons from the Eastern and Western banks of D.C., but we didn’t know they would whip out one of the best brunches we’ve had this year. Since the Dupont location is relatively new, we needed to get a taste of the classics and the brunch specials. The restaurant is small-ish, but not stuffy, and could easily fit a small group. It looks similar to a casual roadside dining establishment in Southeast Asia, but cleaner; much cleaner. The staff here is something to rave about, but then again, we only have good things to say about Chiko.
Chiko’s cuisine is a mix between Chinese classics and Korean accouterments and ferments. However, the dishes are so seamlessly integrated, we’d hardly call this fusion. If you’re looking for fusion, stick to your sushi burrito nonsense. Overall, our experience was casual, unpretentious, and highly impressive.
For cocktails, the classic brunch-centric bloody Mary is well-balanced and has a subtle spice. We’d recommend something a little more consistent with the cuisine though, like Chiko’s DIY gin and tonic with soaked basil seeds – seeds that swell somewhat as a chia seed would. The drink is sweet, as strong as you want it to be, and texturally interesting.
It’s a non-negotiable to start with the array of small snacks. These include the steamed rice with furikake (mix of sesame and nori) butter, egg and potato salad, turmeric pickled radish, Napa cabbage kimchi, pickled vegetables, and cold marinated grilled shrimp. The snacks are good enough to be enjoyed solo but are the perfect topper, scooper, or mix-in for any of the bigger dishes.
To start off the mains, we enjoyed the avocado salad, which includes citrus soy, breakfast radish, and crunchy almond slivers. The balance of creaminess, tang, and crunch in this dish is perfect; it’s light, refreshing and is definitely something you should have alongside the more decadent stuff… because health.
We continued our journey through this Chinese-Korean culinary utopia with pork dumplings and congee with shrimp (rice-based oatmeal if you will). Both dishes had incredible, vinegary sauces salty enough to beg for a chug of water, but too good to pause and put our utensils down.
For brunch-focused foods, we had the biscuit and pork gravy, a fully-loaded rice bowl, spam and egg sandwich, and chicken and waffles. The biscuit and pork gravy came with a poached egg as well as strings of green onion. The flavor in the sauce was a creamy, curry-style sauce than an acidic, soy-based sauce. The biscuit was slightly tough but can be overlooked due to the ample sauce soakage situation.
The spam and egg sandwich is that satisfying breakfast item you wish could be delivered to your bed every hungover Sunday morning. This version is familiar and just enough intriguing from the salty spam, melted cheese, and spicy aioli. It’s served on one of the softest rolls we’ve encountered on an egg sandwich, alongside the perfect, always unnecessary but always appreciated tater tot.
Bowls are all the rage. Poke bowl, grain bowl, Chipotle bowl, smoothie bowl, and so on. Whatever it is, put it in a bowl and you suddenly have consumer buy-in. The Chiko rice bowl is one we would consume any time of day. It’s the perfect amount of umami from the garlic ginger sauce, fresh from shredded cucumber and radish, special from specs of fish roe, and hearty from the smoked salmon and seven-minute egg.
Last up, though we already needed to be put down, was the fried chicken and waffle. Our criteria for a good chicken and waffle dish is simple: crispy and moist chicken with a fluffy, not-stale-feeling waffle. The Chiko chicken and waffle is all of that and then some. It’s a sweet and sour style fried chicken with an extra soft waffle. If sweet and sour isn’t your vibe this probably isn’t the chicken and waffle for you. But, if you’re all about it, you’re going to dive headfirst into this volcano of juxtaposed flavors.
The Bitches say: five Champagne flutes.
You may be wondering if we survived this brunch post-consumption. We did. We pulled through. Just for you. So, please, try something new.
Chiko serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.