Kaliwa, a strong contender for RAMMYS New Restaurant of the Year Award

With strong partner, team, Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Kaliwa could be headed to winner’s circle

This year is off to a good start for Meshelle and Chef Cathal Armstrong at Kaliwa. The Pan-Asian restaurant was chosen by the prestigious Michelin Guide as a Bib Gourmand restaurant for 2019. In April, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington announced Kaliwa as a finalist for the 2019 RAMMY Award for New Restaurant of the Year. It’s a deserving tribute to what has been happening at the restaurant, which is located at the District Wharf. Kaliwa, which offers three types of Asian cuisine—Thai, Filipino, and Korean—has been the subject of several accolades and favorable write-ups.

“It’s a great honor to be nominated for an award from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) again with this new restaurant,” says Chef Armstrong. “It has been an exciting adventure and we are thrilled to be nominated as a new restaurant after many years with Restaurant Eve.” Crumbled fried pork was a hit with Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema, who gave the restaurant 2.5 stars. “… stoked with red chiles and ginger, topped with a sunny fried egg, is a sisig so good the dish ought to come with the national flag of the Philippines,” he wrote.

Chef Cathal Armstrong of Kaliwa with Swizzle Chill TV Anchor Lisa Comento at RAMMYS 2019 Nomination Party.
Chef Cathal Armstrong of Kaliwa with Swizzle Chill TV Anchor Lisa Comento at RAMMYS 2019 Nomination Party. Photo by Lisa Comento for Swizzle Chill.

Part of what makes Kaliwa a standout is the attention to detail and a reverence to authenticity. Many of the condiments and sauces are made in-house. “A big focus of our cooking is making everything ourselves; we make gochujang, kimchi, all of our curry paste, and pretty much anything we can make ourselves,” says Armstrong. As a finalist for the RAMMYS New Restaurant of the Year Award, Armstrong will be up against an impressive set of competitors, including Chloe, Poca Madre, Spoken English, and St. Anselm.

In 2011, Armstrong was honored as a Champion of Change by the White House. In 2012, he was nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award for the Best Mid-Atlantic Chef. Previously a co-owner of Restaurant Eve, Armstrong has a list of accomplishments is quite lengthy. Jeffrey Buben, Greggory Hill, Neil Annis, and Peter Smith served as inspiration during his career. “Thomas Keller who I never worked for, (has also had an influence and elevated the role of chefs)… certainly changed the way people think about shifts as professionals…”

RAMMYS 2019 Nomination Party. Photo by Lisa Comento for Swizzle Chill.
RAMMYS 2019 Nomination Party, hosted by RAMW. Photo by Lisa Comento for Swizzle Chill.

Above all others, Armstrong’s father was most influential. “He had a great natural ability to cook and a tremendous pallet,” recalls Armstrong. “His love of fresh organic natural food really led me to my love of local and seasonal.” The partnership with wife Meshelle has worked out well for the restaurant and the pair have been in a culinary spotlight as of late.

Kalliwa works with seasonal ingredients and the menu changes five or six times per year. Soft shell crabs are faring prominently right now on the menu. This will ramp us as they come fully into season. Armstrong and his team really have a good time with what they are doing. “It’s always fun to incorporate the flavors of the season with our Asian cuisine.”

Photo credit: Kaliwa (featured), Swizzle Chill Channel (featured)

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