Kaliwa for Dinner and Happiness at Wharf DC
Where to start with Kaliwa? So many flavors, so many bright colors, and so many options to make you happy. I like to get happy at Kaliwa on a regular basis because it has dishes that I crave.
Kaliwa is a Southeast Asian restaurant that features the cuisines of three specific countries, Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines. There’s a good reason why Kaliwa focuses on just these countries, it’s where Chef-owner Cathal Armstrong and his wife have lived, cooked, and raised their children. The Armstrongs like to say Kaliwa is a love story, it’s a tribute to family and the ancient cultures it comes from.
Aesthetically, Kaliwa feels like an Asian restaurant from the artistic designs on the walls, the tables and seats, to the dishes. It sings authenticity.
The Filipino Street BBQ Skewers are unavoidable and are an auto-order for me. In fact, it is the only item that is on the main menu, the happy hour menu, and on the kiosk menu. These are two meaty nuggets of pork belly that come with a banana ketchup made in-house. Honestly, they go quick, so might as well get in two orders.
Another starter that is shareable is the Hoe-Deop-Bap, it’s off the Korean menu and consists of raw yellowfin tuna, avocado, with a red chili paste called gochujang. The fish and the avocado are cold, the gochujang is spicy, it makes for a great combination.
Digging into the entrees, I always have the urge to get the Kaeng Daeng -Pu from the Thai side of the menu. The dish is made of blue crab, red curry, Thai basil and crispy garlic. If I gave into my urges, I’d end up getting it every time. Funny thing is that when Kaliwa first opened I avoided the dish because I assumed the red curry would overpower the delicate blue crab. Stupid me. Curry and crab are lovers and this dish is amazing. Not only is the dish delicious, the tonnage of crab meat in it is impressive. Want to really spice things up? Ask for the spice tray and dash some of the house made Sriracha sauce into it.
The Tocilog is breakfast for dinner reimagined. It includes Heritage pork belly, on top of a bed of garlic rice with a perfectly cooked fried egg. It is gorgeous. The flavors swirl around your mouth and bring happiness. The pork belly has a nice fat-to-meat ratio and the garlic in the rice really pops. Add the egg and you’ve got the best eggs and bacon you’ve ever had.
The whole fried flounder (Pla – Tord Prik Takrai) is perhaps the most shareable and impressive dish on the menu. The fish, as advertised, comes whole and is covered in a chili, lemongrass sauce. The entire table will pick the fish clean. After the top filet of the fish is consumed, you’ll zip off the skeleton bones and get to work on the bottom filet. The fish is delicate but flavorful and filling. Spoon the chili lemongrass sauce onto the complementary side of rice with the fish and you’ve created the happiest of meals.
Dinner at Kaliwa is an experience that heightens the senses, reminds you of the power of family, and reaffirms your happiness.
Kaliwa is located at 751 Wharf Street near the intersection of Pearl Street. It is open everyday from 11:30am – 11:00pm.