The Spot: Domku Bar & Cafe, 821 Upshur Street NW, (202) 722-7475
The Cuisine: Scandinavian, Polish, Slovak
The Go-To Dishes: Gypsy kielbasa sandwich, Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry preserves, split pea soup with ham and applewood-smoked bacon
The Scoop: Domku is the type of place that you can’t just stumble across without having heard about it first. Doing a quick Google search will get you a ton of reviews, ranging from five stars and a yippie-ki-yay to “I WILL NEVER SET FOOT HERE AGAIN.” However thrilling or chilling the accounts of eating at Domku were, I put them all in the back of my brain and decided to find out for myself, along with two of my trusted companions.
I arrived just after 6 p.m. on a weekday to find a fairly empty restaurant and took a table in the corner. The atmosphere is typical urban-chic with wooden tables, exposed dim lighting, and funky art on the walls to give it an edge. One of my companions said it reminded her of the more hip eateries she had stumbled across in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. While this was all fine and dandy, I was more interested in the food.
Our waitress arrived promptly and gave me the best news I’d heard all day: Domku had just switched over to its fall/winter menu and were debuting a few new eats. I felt like a kid in a candy store on Christmas morning — in Helsinki. The new menu would require some time to inspect and so to assist in my investigatory process, I ordered an Aldaris Porter, a dark-brewed Latvian import.
My mood turned as dark as my drink when the waitress informed us that the perogies wouldn’t be available for awhile. I got over this small roadblock and decided on the traditional Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry preserves. My companions ordered the gypsy kielbasa sandwich and a lamb burger (bunless) with mashed potatoes. I also asked for a cup of the split pea soup with ham and applewood-smoked bacon to start us off.
After a considerable amount of time, our waitress reemerged carrying my soup. The split pea was delicious and hot, providing the perfect mixture of pea, ham, and bacon. It unfortunately got passed around the table faster than I could get a spoon into my hand. Nevertheless, it was appetizing and got me excited for the mains.
My mother always used to tell me that good things come to those who wait. At Domku, this rings true. My Swedish meatballs were absolutely scrumptious, but it was the attention to detail in the mashed potatoes that really made the dish. They were fluffy and buttery, the perfect complement to the well-cooked meatballs. The kielbasa sandwich came on ciabatta bread with onions, red peppers, arugula, blue cheese, and a glaze of dijon. The bold, pungent ingredients came together for a really fresh and appetizing sandwich. The lamb burger was my least favorite, but then again, I could seek relief in those delicious mashed potatoes on the side.
The Verdict: Patience is a virtue, and if you got it, head on over to Domku. There is nowhere else in Washington that offers such an interesting take on Eastern European and Scandinavian cuisines.
Photo courtesy of domkucafe.com