Sam Kim is the executive chef at the historic 1789 Restaurant in Washington, D.C., serving refined seasonal American fare. His background includes stints in Manhattan, at The Modern and Colicchio & Sons.
At 1789, his menu reflects an eclectic sensibility, layering flavors in unexpected, but delicious ways. As evidence, look to his Tuna Crudo, with fermented chile vinaigrette, daikon radish, wasabi tobiko and fried kelp, or his za’atar-dusted lamb loin with sugar snap peas, romanesco, baby carrots, mint oil and lemon yogurt.
Kim’s go-to flavor trifecta features an aromatic blend of cumin, Sichuan peppercorns and ginger. “These ingredients work well together because they have an inherent spiciness to them that brings other layers of flavors together,” he says, noting that this trifecta actually hails from the Xi’an province of China, where there’s a large population of Muslim Chinese.
“Lamb is a prevalent protein there, and this spice blend is ubiquitous with their lamb preparation. Mixing the Sichuan peppercorns, cumin and ginger with the lamb fat creates a wonderful combination of flavors.”
He relies on this trio of ingredients for other dishes, too, from roasted root vegetables to other meats. “Ginger is a prevalent ingredient in Asian food, prized not only for its health benefits but for its flavor. It also has a relative spiciness to it,” says Kim.
“The cumin is slightly spicy while having strong elements of earthiness and smokiness, and the Sichuan peppercorns have a floral note with that tingling attribute that is synonymous with Sichuan food.”