Ala thel dala (deviled crispy potatoes)
Ala thel dala (deviled crispy potatoes) Credit: Raisa Aziz

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The coolest part of a Sri Lankan meal is tearing into a crispy-edged crepe called a hopper that chefs shape into the form of a shallow bowl. Try one at Doi Moi on July 21 and 22 when the 14th Street NW restaurant hosts a Sri Lankan pop-up, kicking off a series of guest chef menu takeovers showcasing cuisines from South Asian and Southeast Asian cultures. 

Doi Moi Executive Chef Johanna Hellrigl is hosting Chef Aarthi Sampath who currently works at Rainbow Room in New York City. Both chefs have connections to the small island country known for its curries, fried roti, pickles, and sambals. Sampath grew up in Southern Indian close to Sri Lanka where her grandfather was a spice trader and her grandmother commonly cooked Sri Lankan stews. Hellrigl spent time in Sri Lanka while working for a democracy-building organization focused on empowering women.

“Aarthi and I both have a soft spot and love for Sri Lanka—my favorite country I have been to and the nicest people I have ever met,” Hellrigl says. “I get the opportunity to transport myself back to those memories in Galle or visiting the markets in Colombo.” The chefs met through ChefsFeed—a company that, among other things, helps culinary professionals from different cities collaborate. 

The a la carte menu (below) features small snacks to start, family-style entrees, vegetable sides, hoppers, and an array of pickles and sauces. The chefs recommend the crab that’s stir-fried in a wok as well as the Sri Lankan version of funnel cake for dessert made from rice flour, coconut milk, and lentils. No tickets are necessary for the dinner, but reservations are strongly encouraged. The regular Doi Moi menu will not be available during the pop-up.

Hellrigl hopes to host guest chefs at least quarterly. “Authenticity and celebration of other cultures is important to me,” she says. “D.C. is a cosmopolitan city full of individuals who have either traveled to Southeast Asia, are from a country in Southeast Asia, or they are ready for the adventure of trying new things through food, even if they cannot get on a plane to the source tomorrow.”

Next, Doi Moi plans to host Chef Nicholas Tang from DBGB Kitchen + Bar in CityCenterDC in the fall. Tang is from Singapore. “There are plenty of phenomenal chefs in D.C. I am excited to collaborate with, especially if they are cooking a cuisine at their restaurant that is different than their heritage, or the cuisine they are really passionate about.”

Doi Moi, 1800 14th St. NW; (202) 733-5131;