When Hei Hei Tiger opens tomorrow in the Urbanspace Food Hall food at Tysons Galleria, diners will be able to top a comforting bowl of congee with roast duck, garlic bok choy, and a soy poached egg. That’s just one possible combination from the build-a-bowl section of the predominantly Cantonese eatery from the Tiger Fork team.
Those too timid to make their own meal out of a variety of bases and proteins can choose a dish, such as loaded fried rice or beef noodle soup, from the classics section of the menu. (Check out the full menu below.)
Hei Hei Tiger partner Will Fungjoins the growing number of chefs with serious chops experimenting in fast-fine cuisine. While you order at a counter instead of with a server, this emerging model of dining typically involves higher price points to reflect the quality of ingredients and more labor intensive cooking techniques. Fast-fine restaurants often also have a full bar.
Born in Hong Kong, Fung moved to the U.S. with his family in 1991, when he was 10 years old. He lived in Hong Kong long enough to make formative food memories. “As our lives got busier, Mom wasn’t able to cook every night,” he says. “To supplement a home-cooked meal, she’d send one of the boys out to the market to get a pound of char siu.” She’d serve the barbecue pork with rice, noodles, and vegetables she prepared.
Fung’s been a part of the Tiger Fork culinary team since the Shaw restaurant opened three years ago. He’s also been a sushi chef at Sushiko, launched the Dirty South Deli food truck, and recently spent a year in Kyoto, Japan cooking at kaiseki restaurants with three Michelin stars.
Most dishes and the ingredients on the Hei Hei Tiger menu have Cantonese origins, but there are a few outliers. Since Fung’s mother is from Shanghai he added a couple Shanghainese dishes to the menu, including drunken chicken with Shaoxing wine and ginger scallion oil. “It’s one of the more challenging dishes for customers, but we’re going to stick to it,” Fung says. “It’s served cold. We poach the skin, so it’s not meant to be crispy.”
While the light, subtitle flavors of Japanese kaiseki cuisine seem in opposition with the salty and savory punches of Cantonese barbecue, Fung uses some of the techniques he learned while cooking in Kyoto at Hei Hei Tiger.
The noodle soups start as dashi made from kombu (seaweed) Fung imports from Japan. “It comes out a little lighter with a lot of umami and a nice lingering flavor,” he says. The dashi base is enhanced by some of the braising liquid from the beef shanks, which tastes of Chinese herbs and aromatics. “The soups were a big thing in the kaiseki restaurant. The head chef is the only one that tastes the soup.”
Hei Hei Tiger, which means “happy happy tiger,” will also occupy the main octagon-shaped bar at Urbanspace and serve cocktails that incorporate elements of traditional Chinese medicine.
Beverage director Ian Fletcher will bring over some of his most popular drinks from Tiger Fork like the allegedly energizing “8 O’Clock Light Show” with rum, mandarin, yuzu, cacao, kola nut, guarana, ginseng, and cinnamon. New additions include the “Lust, Caution Honey Trap” with Suntory Toki whiskey, Drambuie, honey, and rice wine vinegar. There will also be teas, tonics, sake, beer, and wine.
Fung and his partners Nathan Beauchamp and Greg Algie could have opened Hei Hei Tiger on any corner of D.C. proper and drawn lines as they do in Blagden Alley. “We’re always looking for interesting places to serve customers,” Fung says.
Before signing on the dotted line, Fung says he bent the ear of the team behindSen Khao—the Laotian restaurant from Chef Seng Luangrath that’s one of the anchors of Urbanspace Food Hall. The chef says he’s excited about the communal aspect of sharing a kitchen .
Urbanspace was once Mike Isabella’s food hall. When that concept failed, Tysons Galleria had the opportunity to take a mulligan. With Hei Hei Tiger joining Sen Khao, Donburi, Andy’s Pizza, and others, the mall continues to improve its score.
Hei Hei Tiger is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. The bar stays open later. In the future, it will offer a private dining room and dim sum brunch.
Hei Hei Tiger, 2001 International Drive, 3rd floor, McLean; heiheitiger.com