Shouk: All Shook Up

It’s midnight.  I should go to bed. But there’s something nagging at me, and it’s keeping me from calling it a night. I shuffle down the stairs, open the refrigerator door and peer into a leftover rice bowl from Shouk.  The container of cauliflower, asparagus, arugula, za’atar, and tahini would make for a satisfying lunch the next day. I hesitate before removing it from the shelf.  I can’t resist.  I grab the bowl and a plastic fork, and devour every last morsel. Shouk, a fast casual restaurant that is 100% plant-based, has ignited my passion in a way that I’m powerless to resist.

 Shouk, in Mt. Vernon Square near the Convention Center, is about fresh, vegan, Israeli-inspired food. The word shouk is Hebrew for market. And there is a market at Shouk, with one wall featuring a display of Middle Eastern ingredients available for purchase.  But what owners Ran Nussbacher and Chef Dennis Friedman really want to convey is a market feel, which according to their website means “an assault on all five senses.”   

Shouk market

Nussbacher is a vegan who grew up in Israel.  Friedman has worked with legendary chefs Michel Richard and Daniel Bouloud. Its a good time for Shouk, as Israeli food is rising in popularity with restaurants like Shaya in New Orleans and Zahav in Philadelphia gaining national recognition.  Shouk has already achieved accolades in its first year. It was recognized by Eater DC in 2016 as the Fast Casual Restaurant of the Year. 

Don’t come to Shouk expecting falafel.  It’s not on the menu. What you get instead are tantalizing fusions of vegetables that are stuffed into pita or tossed into a salad. The combinations are delightful- even to the most ardent carnivores.

I vacillate between ordering a lentil bowl with fennel, potato, red pepper, and pistachio pesto or a pita filled with black beans, sweet potato, red pepper, tomato, arugula, and a toss of spicy harissa. As I take my turn at the counter, I shift gears, settling on a bowl of lentils with cauliflower (the very same one that makes a brief appearance in my fridge), a Shouk burger, and sweet potato fries with cashew labneh.  

The Shouk burger is a revelation, made from 15 vegetables. including chickpeas, black beans, scallions, mushrooms, and beets.  Flaxseed serves as a binder.  The patty is crisped on a griddle and served in a pita brimming with add-ons including roasted tomatoes, pickled turnip, arugula, charred onion, and tahini. Each bite offers unique flavors and sensations alternating between chewy, crunchy, creamy, slippery, and spicy.  Veggie burger skeptics- hold your horses. This is a must try burger, particularly during May, which just happens to be National Burger Month.  

A duo of burgers at Shouk

As more chefs realize the benefit of focusing attention on vegetables, Shouk leads the way with its singular dedication.

Shouk’s appeal extends to the interior decor, with rustic wood tables and benches, and walls that alternate between brick and bright yellow. One wall features a panoply of words that are key to the Shouk concept- colors, flavors, comfort, aromas, everyone-friendly, and of course, plant-based. For those of us who have visited Israel, the background music serves to stir up fond memories, adding another layer to the experience. 

It’s now morning, and I slowly descend the stairs, desperate for my first cup of coffee.  I open the refrigerator, and stare longingly at the blank space where my Shouk leftovers perched ever so briefly.  I can only do one thing.  I shake my head slowly, and plan my aliyah (return) back to Shouk.

Shouk655 K St. NW, Washington DC, 20001

 

Momofuku CCDC: The Heat is On

There was a lot of hububb when the well-known David Chang brought his highly-regarded Momofuku from New York to DC.  Momofuku CCDC, along with it’s bakery Milk Bar, attracted lines with hours-long waits for its renowned pork buns, ramen, and crack pie. Somewhat to my own surprise, I resist the hordes, telling myself I’ll wait […]

G by Mike Isabella : Gee Whiz the Tasting Menu is Gratifying

Mike Isabella’s name is in lights at Nationals Stadium.  He appeared on season six of “Top Chef” and was runner up on “Top Chef All-Stars.”  He is often a featured chef at fundraising events around town, and this summer will appear on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Duels.”  Not to mention, he is chef/owner of a growing […]

Minibar: It’s Sensational

” One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti, as quoted on a wall in Minibar.  If any restaurant follows this credo, it’s Minibar. There is a great deal of eating involved, but it is so much more […]

Maple Ave Restaurant: Full of Surprises

My obsession with restaurant research generally yields positive results.  But I must admit, it’s exhilarating when I stumble upon a restaurant and have a stand-out meal.  Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, Virginia takes me by surprise with its diverse menu, bold flavors, and low-key vibe. Maple Ave Restaurant (MAR) isn’t exactly a sleeper.  It is […]

Zentan: Mission Accomplished

Zentan has been on my restaurant wish list since reading a Washington Post review from Tom Sietsema last September. “Zentan’s new chef brings a little more spark” is good news. Prior to that, Eater DC lists Zentan in their “New Chef Heatmap:  Restaurants Worth a Revisit.” I haven’t dined at Zentan since March 2011, and am […]

Kapnos: Mike Isabella Hits a Home Run

Most people I know can talk about players on DC sports teams with great familiarity.  Sure I’ve heard about National’s players like Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg, but beyond that I am fairly clueless. On the other hand, I am happy to discuss local chefs with confidence.  My knowledge retention may be slipping with age, […]

Questions or comments?
Send an email to lorisue6@gmail.com