Unusual, earthy, minty: that's how Chris Mohaupt, owner of the Federal Bar and Grill
, described the bouquet of purple shiso I'd brought into his bar. He and bartender Jeremy Johnson rubbed the thick, fuzzy leaves between their fingers, sniffed, bit off bitter nibbles in their attempts to pinpoint the complex flavor and aroma of the herb, also known as perilla in some parts of the world and tía tô
in Vietnam, where it perfumes steaming bowls of noodle soups and adds raw bite to salads and lettuce wraps. "Definitely cinnamon and anise," Amy added. So what were we doing with a grocery bag of shiso, Vietnamese mint and a fist-sized knob of fresh ginger at an American bar and grill better known for burgers and beers than anything approaching Asian cuisine?
See also: The twelve days of Christmas on Federal Boulevard