I have a serious condition known as FOMO, and Instagram aggravates my symptoms. Tiger Fork, the new restaurant in Blagden Alley featuring the cuisine of Hong Kong, is the subject of many, many Instagram photos. The pictures alternatively intrigue and taunt me, as I plot out my visit.
The no-reservations restaurant (unless you are a party of 6 or more) presents the usual challenge of determining the best time to arrive without incurring a frustratingly long wait. I decide the time is right one late Saturday afternoon. My son is flying into BWI for a visit. I send my husband to the airport, while I hop on the Metro to put our name in for a table. As I stand alone on the subway platform, I wonder if I’ve squandered precious moments with my son in favor of a restaurant. Nah, I conclude. Restaurants as a priority is part of our family dynamic.
I arrive at Tiger Fork at 6:15 pm. There’s no sign on the door, but those online photos have made an impression on me. The octagonal black-framed window and bright red paint is a sign that I’m in the right place. I’m told to expect a wait of a little more than an hour. La Colombe is next door, so I can relax, wait for my family, and peruse social media to see what else I’m missing. Forty-five minutes later, three seats at one of the long wooden communal tables are available, and so we begin our journey.
To get into the spirit of Tiger Fork, which is defined as a “gritty, badass culinary culture,” one should indulge in a TCM cocktail designed by Beverage Director Ian Fletcher. TCM cocktails are based on holistic recipes, and come with a warning: “We recommend no more than 2 of these cocktails per visit.” The Bird Market- for the immune system – is a concoction of gin, yellow chartreuse, Peychaud’s Bitters, Bergamot, honeysuckle, elderberry, sage, thyme, etc. etc. As I sip the drink, a sense of calm and well-being washes over me. I give the medicinal value of this complex cocktail a big thumbs-up.
Executive Chef Irvin Van Oordt is a native Peruvian who grew up in Rockville. The relatively small menu features recognizable Chinese dishes such as dan dan noodles, beef chow foon, and fried rice. Other dishes veer in more unique directions, which is where I find the food to be more gratifying.
Cheung fun is a dish that was born to be photographed. Round, chewy noodles filled with shrimp and chives are set atop a savory black bean sauce and then sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Starting here sets a lighthearted tone for the rest of the meal.
Crispy whole dourade with chengdu sauce is accompanied by soft chunks of eggplant and crunchy Chinese celery. This dish garners accolades with its contrasting whirl of textures, and flavors that are vibrant but not overpowering.
Don’t leave Tiger Fork without tasting the sour fries. Half the potatoes are pickled, the other half fried, and there’s a pronounced flavor of salt and vinegar. It’s a dish that’s simultaneously simple and exotic, and that’s why I love it.
Beef chow foon is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. There’s something about those wide, slippery noodles. The version served at Tiger Fork is made with beef from dairy cows. The meat is tender, and the dish has its merits, although it’s won’t make my list of favorites here, simply because it doesn’t stand up to some of the others.
A pair of kowloon buns with dairy cow, ginger and black vinegar are presented as a gift from the kitchen. I’ve never given much thought to differences between dairy and beef cows, but according to Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post in his Tiger Fork review, dairy cows are “prized for their flavor, they’re the beef of choice in the chef’s native Peru.”
Smashed cucumbers with cilantro is a refreshing accompaniment, with moderate heat but plenty of flavor.
Under the sweets section of the menu is “bubble waffle with ice cream and funstuff.” It’s important to take a photo so you can give friends and followers dessert envy. Waffles are made fresh and filled with matcha ice cream, sprinkles, chocolate, and pocky sticks.
Hanging lanterns, murals by Baltimore-based tattoo artist Kike Castillo, and an open kitchen add to the amiable atmosphere at Tiger Fork. Sitting at a communal table can be awkward, but it can also be rewarding. I briefly eavesdropped on a conversation between a group of women seated next to us, and ended up with someone giving me her resume for a possible job opening.
I feel fulfilled after dining at Tiger Fork, and my fear of missing out has subsided, at least for now. The best way to stave off Tiger Fork FOMO? Don’t miss out.
Tiger Fork, 922 N Street (Rear) NW · Blagden Alley · Washington DC 20001