Image: Plate and plating meld. “Celtuce and Cucumber” salad, with smoked trout roe, red vinegar, garlic.
Last Updated: 6/9/2020
Before Times Review:
First Visit: June 2019
Like Rooster & Owl, Queen’s English is a project from a couple that created something unique without much fanfare, only to see diners and critics swoon once it opened. Sarah Thompson, one half of the team, told DCist, “We don’t have a PR company. We’re just me and my husband trying to open a restaurant.” In the case of Queen’s English, the restaurant is on 11th Street where a few places have come and gone recently. It sits, like a bright green beacon, drawing customers to Hong Kong-inspired cuisine and warm service. It is distinct, fun, charming and excellent.
The other half of the team is the chef, Henji Cheung. He grew up in Hong Kong and was raised on its cuisine. His prior stints were doing Italian and French. Now he is returning to his version of comfort food. It is anything but rustic. There is finesse and whimsy, like in the Peanut, Bacon and Jellyfish (“PB&J”) dish that is smoky rather than sweet. The hand-cut noodles are two-toned with squid ink coloring one side black. The naked dumpling is a rich mix of shrimp and scallop mousse lacking a dough shell. Scallions, garlic, ginger and chilis are a common themes. Some dishes, like the sweet and sour Branzino, have a spice kick that can sneak up on you. The restaurant opened in April, and the menu is already evolving to stay fresh. It also encourages return trips.
The beverage program, run by Thompson, is creative and reflective of the thoughtfulness that permeates the restaurant. There are several good cocktails depending on your mood. The wine list includes some reds, whites, roses, sparkling, “orange” and blends that are something in between categories (think light Italian reds that are best served chilled). There is no sake, but there are cider options. It demonstrates how even with a short list and limited resources there is room to be engaging.
It is small, with 39 seats inside and 10 more on the sidewalk in good weather. Thompson and Cheung worked for years in New York, but found that DC was inviting because they could swing it without major backing. The décor is more accented than overwhelming. The rest of the team is as committed as the owners and is already settled in.
It is a little out of the way for most, but it is worth the effort to get there and to get in. In the wake of the loss of Meridian Pint and Maple, there was a risk this stretch would lag. Queen’s English is picking up the slack. It is also a reminder to places with much more space and resources, how a focused, thoughtful approach can succeed.
Other Guidance: It is a casual but nice neighborhood-oriented spot with attire matching that vibe – meaning there is no implied dress code at all. As for dietary restrictions the website says: “Our authentic menu includes nuts, seafood & pork. There are several vegetarian and gluten free dishes, there are no vegan options at this time.”
Rating: Worth Paying for Cab
Cuisine: Chinese (Hong Kong)
Neighborhood: Columbia Heights/Petworth
Address: 3410 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20010
Reservations: Limited number on Website. Walk-ins also available. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Washington Post: Tom’s had a very positive first bite. “He’s cooking what he knows — and well.”