Image: Plate of take-out.
Current Status – Updated April 2021
Doi Moi teamed up with the Chicken+Whiskey team and gave the place a freshening up. The food has shifted its emphasis to more Vietnamese, but judging from the menu they are still covering a lot of ground. Take-out and Delivery also available. The downstairs bar has also re-opened.
Before Times Review (and prior to makeover):
Doi Moi serves pan-Asian emphasizing cuisine from Vietnam, Thailand and other nearby countries. A brightly-lit corner in modern building on 14th Street, it draws you in. The space is open with a sizable bar (plus a related one downstairs). It has gone up and down over the years (it is the last remaining spot directly connected to recently shuttered Proof), but it seems in a better place now. Chef Johanna Hellrigl took over and started putting her mark on the menu in the middle of 2018. If you are in the neighborhood it is worth trying out. If it fell off your radar, it may be time to give it another shot.
The menu has a bunch of small plates and even more larger plates. Chef Hellrigl did her research. The menu hints at time spent in the region, and she seems to be enjoying the discovery and creation of dishes. Compared to other spots drawing on SE Asian cuisine, flavors here tend toward the bright and slightly rich over the pungent and very spicy. The curries are good, but may not make you tear up and think of glass of cold milk. It is Asian food where you can bring different kinds of guests and find something for the whole table. Which is not to say there are no spicy or funky dishes. The mango salad and papaya salad can singe. The pork-stuffed lemongrass is tasty, but I confess I never quite figured out how to eat it.
The wine list is brief and focused, with maybe two-three dozen total choices. They have a number of creative cocktails, but if that is your primary pursuit you may want to try out the bar downstairs (Destination Wedding – a silly concept in a great space). One place the recent corporate instability seems to show up is in service. It can be spotty; it seems as if the serious staff are trying to cover for the spacey at times.
Outside seating in the summer is a plus. Doi Moi draws from both locals hanging out and a broader crowd looking for fun on 14th. Hopefully, recent righting will continue and Doi Moi will work itself back into the broader conversation. Until then it is a good place to talk over a meal and mark the rise of a chef.
Other guidance: Doi Moi gets huge props for breaking out the menu on the backside of the sheet into vegetarian and GF dishes, with many options under both categories. Jeans and even shorts are totally acceptable here.
2.5 Tom Rating: 2.5 (was probably under-rated when given in 2014, but over-rated now)
Washingtonian: Made the Very Best list in 2016.
Lori: 2013 – amazing how picture resolution has developed in 6 years.
Michelin: Bib Gourmand (though it is hard to think of it as a bargain spot)