The Sparrow Room, Mahjong Saloon and Dim Sum, opens in Arlington. Photography by Maria Miranda
Bun’d Up Andrew Lo chef grew up watching his family and staff play Mahjong after hours at a Cantonese dim sum restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri.
Lo recalls the joyful routine: “You close the restaurant and you play mahjong together.” “My family is Cantonese, and in Hong Kong, they often finish a meal, walk out from the top of the table, and there’s a mahjong board under it.”
Scott Chung, founder of Lo and Bun’d Up, is taking the idea of after-dinner games one step further for their next business: Sparrow Room, a modern-style mahjong saloon and dim sum bar that opens Thursday, January 27. During the day, customers can order Taiwanese-style gua bao buns at Bun’d Up Express in Pentagon City. Come evening, they can head to the 40-seat emerald-colored bar behind the restaurant for mahjong games, colorful cocktails, and Cantonese bar fare.
Bartenders Micah Wilder and Hunter Douglas, who are behind the drinks at DC locations like Mercy Me and Zeppelin, designed the cocktail menu. Many drinks are influenced by Chinese flavors, like Bamboo Manhattan with rye infused with five spices, or frozen Peacock Daiquiri with rum, dragonfruit, and calamansi (and if you need a caffeine boost for gaming, there’s always an espresso martini). Lo’s menu is designed with patrons in mind—think shrimp dumplings, kale buns with Chinese sausage, or popcorn chicken topped with a chili dusting. Larger dishes include poo tofu or crispy pork belly.
The name Sparrow Room refers to the game’s original Chinese name – ‘the sound that sparrows make when they move into a tree. It reflects the annoying sound of tiles and chatter,’ says Lu. However, the bar will not be strictly Chinese. Lo and Chung, whose family is Korean, often praise With their Asian-American roots in Bun’d Up and pop-up barbecue, Wild Tiger BBQ. “I’m very Asian-American and focus on Americans,” Low says. He plans to celebrate the role of mahjong in the United States, both in Asian American culture and other cultures.
Mahjong is having a moment, in part because the national spotlight on AAPI culture has revealed both the pros and cons (like a Texas company owned by three white women who promoted a culturally insensitive culture). Issuance). But Lu sees that traditional Mahjong is a fun time that anyone can enjoy. The chef started teaching mahjong lessons when he was working with Burmese food stall Toli Moli at Union Market. He plans to continue the weekly Mahjong nights on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. – a tradition he started at Bun’d Up. Experts are also welcome to reserve tables (reservations will be launched soon on Tock).
Mahjong was taken out of China early In the 1920s, it was ingrained in the Jewish community,” says Lu. “In the 1950s, you see a lot of ads of American housewives playing mahjong in the pool. We have a lot of interest in mahjong nights from our Asian friends, as well as the interest in the Jewish community. It’s a game that people have always played, but they probably haven’t talked about much about.”
Sparrow room. 1201 South. Joyce Street. Arlington.
* This story has been updated from a previous version.