By Sara Axelrod
When I first arrived in DC in the fall of 2006, the very first meal I ate out was at some Asian place not far from the hotel with my dad. It was on the Potomac, set under a strange overpass and …delicious. Of course I am talking about longtime Georgetown waterfront spot, Bangkok Joe’s.
At that first dinner, I had some amazing hoisin duck spring rolls with full sweet green onion spears, juicy pork and crab shumai and finally my personal favorite and call back to my Hawaiian roots, a chicken bun reminiscent of Hawaiian manapua ( see here for details and go find one immediately). Needless to say it quickly became a nostalgic favorite, perfect for the occasional weeknight my parents were in town or a quick happy hour. To this day, my dad still asks to go to the “designer dumpling place.”
Well Dad, next time you’re in town we can go.
In case you missed the Bangkok Joe’s saga of the last couple years, here is the cliff notes version. In June 2014, after many many years operating as Bangkok Joe’s, owner Mel Oursinsini and his wife, chef/owner Aulie Bunyarataphan decided to close its doors, remodel and reopen as a new Southeast Asian/French restaurant called Mama Rouge. Needless to say the transition was not as popular as some may have hoped. Personally, I never stepped foot into the new place—if only because I forgot about it.
Last week, after less than 18 months as Mama Rouge, Bangkok Joe’s returned to the waterfront. In a press release, Mel stated, “We’ve heard from so many of our longtime customers that they really missed Bangkok Joe’s. So we decided to bring the restaurant back, but with a more traditional influence that really showcases authentic Thai ingredients and Aulie’s creativity in the kitchen.”
Chef Aulie’s genuine love of traditional Thai ingredients and creative interpretation of flavors is clearly the heart behind Bangkok Joe’s.
Bangkok Joe’s 2.0, like its predecessor, will feature a combination of dumplings, buns, wontons, rolls, small plates, noodle/rice bowls and entrée options. Some old fan favorites are returning including the aforementioned chicken bun, the perfect pad thai and the many varied fried rice options. However, look for many new offerings, dishes that highlight Chef Aulie’s signature inspired twist including the fried Thai chicken, lobster and shrimp dumplings and crispy spinach wontons—all featured at last week’s opening.
“I really enjoy updating traditional dishes and adding an element of excitement to old flavors,” said Aulie. “I hope my customers will love these dishes as much as I do.”
The true showcase of Aulie’s talent is the expanded Dumpling Bar menu, featuring 20 of Aulie’s unique creations paired with a selection of house made sauces. To perfect her dumpling presentation, Aulie studied with master chef Heng Pukdepl of Suan Lum Seafood, one of Bangkok’s most renowned Dumpling Houses. Highlights include the larb duck dumpling with crispy shallots and sweet-chili zap sauce, the steamed shrimp dumplings with an unexpected ginger-lime cream and finally the shrimp and crab gyoza with delicate pickled ginger undertones.
Designer dumplings indeed.
While I may be excited about Bangkok Joe’s re-opening for more sentimental reasons than most, I feel I can objectively say that the updated menu and fresh look plus the massive Dumpling Bar is reason enough to head to Georgetown. Ill probably be there with my dad.