Growing up in Hong Kong, it always seemed strange that my grandmother and other members of my family would double down on cooking hot (read: spicy, soupy, brothy) dishes during the warm and humid tropical summers. The cooking in South and Southeast Asian countries also follows the same, slightly counter intuitive concept but it does work: hotter foods make you sweat, thereby cooling you down faster.
It's with this proven approach in mind that I staggered, tired, hungry and slightly hungover, to the brunch at Doi Moi. We'd been to the Asian "fusion" (oh no, the dreaded F word) place on DC's sprawling 14th Street stretch new Logan Circle for dinner a number of times but I was now counting on Chef Karoum's abilities to cure what ailed me with his bold, unexpected and yes, hot flavors.
A relatively new addition to the now tried-and-true dinner menu, brunch at Doi Moi offers a limited selection of Asian-influenced small breakfast plates, ranging from the traditional (three-egg omelette with spicy minced pork) to the obviously-not-Asian-but-still-kind-of-yummy (sesame seed beignets). They also offer a brunch of breakfast cocktails - unfortunately still at dinner prices - in case you're after some hair of the dog.
With my level of suffering however, it had to be the pork belly porridge (congee, jook, or whatever Asian variant you want to use because pretty much every Asian region has its own version) and ice cold water.
This was definitely my mother's congee but it absolutely hit the spot. Garnishing the dish with ginger matchsticks, scallions and cilantro (the Cantonese TRIFECTA) really brought the dish together, which simultaneously calmed my stomach down and woke up me from my stupor at the same time.
To start, we also shared the chive and mushroom dumplings which were absolutely delicious. The black vinegar dipping sauce is a great nod to the traditional dumpling dipping sauces of Taiwan and Northern China - XLB lovers out there don't need any introduction to this concept. However at $11 for three fairly meager dumplings - the dish literally came out to three dollars and 67 cents per dumpling. Where I come from, paying that much for a whole plate of dumplings let alone three tiny ones warrants a serious talking to (or a whack from grandma's cane....which is a story for another day).
Egg lovers out there can relax (and rejoice). The chefs at Doi Moi know how to rock out a soft boiled egg and like to put one on pretty much everything, including their crispy radish cakes. This is not a Benedict dish in any way shape or form that you'll have had before (this one involves a red curry hollandaise...oh yes) but was equally savory and delicious.
Finally awake and satiated, I stumbled back into the Saturday morning sunlight feeling quite a bit happier (and a lot fuller) than we had arrived.
Food: 4/5. Not a traditional Asian breakfast in any way but the chef has really tried to include fun and interesting twists to give diners a break from the traditional brunch offering available in so many restaurants in DC.
Drinks: 3/5. Cool cocktails, good beer selection - very pricey though, especially compared to how the food is priced
Ambiance: Cool, trendy with lots of white - lots of open space and a killer patio if it's not too hot out.
Jasmine says: It's a different way to do brunch if you're tired of the usual. The price point can be kind of prohibitive since the total bill starts to stray into a proper dinner range, but it's worth checking out at least once. Three and a half chomps.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.