You've probably had an oyster shooter. Now, behold the dumpling shooter. You heard right: a dumpling sinking in alcohol, meant to be simultaneously drank and eaten. It's one of several booze-soaked food items that require an ID at Chaplin Cocktail Bar, which opened last night.
The shooter pictured above is the sole cold offering: a steamed shrimp dumpling semi-floating in a Pimm's Cup with a dash of bitters. There's also a warm twist on a whiskey sour with Japanese whiskey, a lemon emulsion, and a hot pork dumpling. Lastly, a hot beef dumpling is combined with Japanese whiskey, cherry brandy, and orange peel. Each of these creations is $9.
Perhaps this is just what happens when bartenders run a restaurant. The place, which is inspired by actor and comedian Charlie Chaplin, is owned by mixologist brothers Ari and Micah Wilder, along with Armin Amin and Adrian Williams. (The Wilders are also partners in Red Light, where you have to be 21 to order some of the boozy desserts.) Manning the kitchen of Chaplin Cocktail bar is Jeremy Cooke, whose resume includes Siroc, Elisir, and a brief stint at Toki Underground.
"I'm going against the conventions of normal cooking," Cooke admits, "because normally we cook the booze out."
Aside from the shooters, there's a whole set of other dumplings that are marinated with alcohol and have alcohol in their dipping sauces. Among them is a dumpling with ground chicken and coconut that integrates mezcal. Another includes steak and mushrooms with whiskey. Each serving contains just over a shot.
But not all the food will get you drunk. Cooke has about seven varieties of ramen, including one with mussels and another with duck, plus non-alcoholic dumplings. There's also papaya salad, soba noodle salad, and a number of other salads.
As for why they decided the Chaplin-themed bar should serve Asian food? Micah Wilder says because Chaplin's films were silent, there was no language barrier: "He was big in Japan. He did a film called Shanghai." It didn't hurt that the kitchen, formerly, belonging to Mandalay, is outfitted with woks.
You can read more about the cocktails, named after Chaplin's comedic films, in this previous Y&H post. The much-anticipated "laughing gas" concoction carbonated with helium and carbon dioxide to make your voice funny won't be available until the end of the week.
The upstairs bar and dining room is also still under construction, including the "Opium Den," which will have its own drink menu and be reserved exclusively for private events. The downstairs, however, is open, and you can check out some photos below. The place also has an old piano, and once it gets tuned up, the owners hope to host Monday piano nights where guests can request songs and sing along to their favorite tunes. Just avoid the laughing gas cocktail first.
Chaplin Cocktail Bar, 1501 9th St. NW; (202) 644-8806; chaplinrestaurantdc.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman