Venerable D.C. chef Tim Ma’s new restaurant American Son (opened last August) is a collaboration of his experiences growing up as a Chinese-American in the U.S. during the 1970s. Located in the lobby of the also new-ish Eaton Hotel D.C., the 150 seat eatery is both airy and modern, outfitted with garage doors that roll up to the city sidewalk, as well as chrome and leather seating, an expansive open kitchen, and plenty of greenery.
American Son – aptly named, as it was how his parents often referred to him – serves comfort food from Ma’s global perspective. The menu, which gives vegetables a prominent stage, focuses on seasonal and organic fare to mesh with the hotel’s wellness (of both mind and body) ethos. Among the bites, plates, and large format dishes, definite highlights include the house made ricotta with lavender honey; tofu gnocchi with white miso beurre monte, apple, sunchoke, chive, and black truffle; and spaghetti squash ssam with buttered lettuces and ssam Korean sauces.
Though a genuine Ma signature dish is the deep fried flounder, a homage to one of his best NYC memories, when his family would drive into NYC on the weekends for the the flounder and snails at Hop Kee, the iconic 50-year-old restaurant in Chinatown. Loaded with a handful of Chinese spices and sauces, it is definitely worth breaking your New Year’s diet resolution for.
Chef Ma was generous enough to share the special recipe with BlackBook.
Image by Adrian Gaud
Chef Tim Ma’s Deep Fried Flounder
“This dish is inspired by the iconic NYC restaurant Hop Kee
on Mott Street in Chinatown, which celebrated 50 years in operation this year. I fondly remember this restaurant because my parents would drive us from Pleasantville, NY every weekend to have this flounder and the snails. Also because one of my best NYC memories is the Chinatown gangs having a fireworks battle on the rooftops as my parents shielded us and we sprinted to get out of way.”
1.5 # Whole Flounder (S & G)
2 cups Rice Flour
2 cups Corn Starch
1/4 cup Chinese 5-spice
1/4 kosher salt
Chili Garlic Sauce
20 red thai bird eye chilli, chopped
10 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 cup ginger, minced
1/2 cup shallots, minced
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 quart peeled ginger, julienned
2 cups rice vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup sugar
For the pickled ginger:
1. Heat rice vinegar, water, salt, sugar until salt and sugar dissolve.
2. Pour over julienned ginger
3. Cool down and refrigerate over night
For the Flounder
1. Slice 3 or 4 cuts on each side of the flounder, all the way to the bone
2. Mix the rice flour, corn starch, 5-spice, and salt together
3. Dredge the flounder and completely coat in the rice flour mixture
4. Fry at 350F for 6 minutes or until fish is fully cooked
For the Chili Garlic Sauce
1. Mortar and pestle the chiles, garlic, ginger, shallots, palm sugar, kosher salt, sesame oil together to form a paste.
2. Whisk in the rice vinegar, fish sauce, and tamari to the paste.
3. Pour sauce over fish, serve with pickled ginger, lime wedges, and some sprigs of cilantro
4. Make sure to eat the FINS.