Swanky Japanese Restaurant Entangled in Legal Drama Opens at the Wharf

NaRa-Ya sits beneath La Vie, from the exact same house owners, overlooking the Washington Channel. Photograph courtesy NaRa-Ya.

A luxe new Japanese restaurant at the Wharf is the scene for just one in a series of lawsuits alleging economic mismanagement and top secret scheming among its primary house owners. In May of 2019, Social Restaurant Team house owners Naeem Mohd and Rajiv Chadha, who are also powering La Vie and Provision No. 14, accused their estranged enterprise partner Mike Bramson of striving to steal away their Michelin-starred sushi chef, among the other allegations. Almost two years—and a pandemic—later, the lawsuit is even now ongoing with a pretrial convention set for Could. Meanwhile, the extended-delayed restaurant—now termed NaRa-Ya—finally opened past 7 days with “neo-traditional” Japanese tasting menus from a new culinary team.

Sushi Taro chef Nobu Yamazaki was at first tapped to oversee the menu of what was then likely to be termed Tabu. But he suddenly split in the spring of 2019, close to the identical time that Bramson was promoting back again his stake in the cafe amid a slipping out with his associates. Mohd and Chadha allege Bramson secretly plotted to poach Yamazaki to open up their personal competing sushi cafe. (The two are partners in a speedy-everyday sushi and dumpling stall in Ballston’s Quarter Market place, but nothing presently at the Wharf.) The lawsuit statements Bramson and Yamazaki “purposefully and deliberately misled” Mohd into believing Yamazaki was nevertheless element of Tabu, and that Mohd in the long run acquired of the chef’s departure from a Metropolis Paper posting. The split was allegedly a massive blow to the enterprise that prompted “significant damages.”

Meanwhile, a attorney symbolizing both equally Bramson and Yamazaki formerly instructed Washingtonian that there was no conspiracy. He suggests that Yamazaki left for the reason that he felt Mohd was a “bully” and was anxious that the cafe was becoming fiscally mismanaged right after finding out the restaurant’s landlord experienced issued a default recognize. Mohd’s lawyer denied the bullying accusations and blamed the default notice on Bramson’s alleged mismanagement. There’s also an ongoing dispute about Yamazaki selling his shares in the restaurant.

Right after the major split, Mohd and Chadha re-conceptualized the business enterprise and improved the title from Tabu to NaRa-Ya, which is a reference to the historical money of Japan as properly as the initially letters of their names (Naeem and Rajiv). They also turned to Kaz Sushi Bistro chef/owner Kaz Okochi as their new culinary director. They’ve given that introduced in govt chef Lucas Irwin, whose vocation spans from Maui to Vail to Nantucket. He will come to DC from LoLa 41 in Palm Seashore wherever he oversaw a menu that ranged from sushi to burgers.

Pan-seared squab with shishito-miso puree and crispy enoki mushrooms. Photograph courtesy NaRa-Ya.

When the pandemic has turned a great deal of superior-conclude eating places extra informal, NaRa-Ya is going straight for the luxe with no takeout or out of doors eating. The restaurant facilities close to tasting menus—one with meat and fish ($89) and the other vegan ($75). The former presents dishes these kinds of as kampachi tiradito with kiwi-cherry blossom sauce and pan-seared squab with a shishito-miso puree and crispy enoki mushrooms. The tasting also incorporates a selection of sushi, such as some considerably less-common rolls stuffed with Alaskan king crab and purple sweet potato that are topped with wagyu, black garlic aioli, and crispy shallots. For spring, the sushi rice is infused with cherry blossom tea, which Irwin claims presents it a floral aroma.

Colourful vegetable sushi is component of the vegan tasting menu. Photograph courtesy NaRa-Ya.

The vegan solution features environmentally friendly tea soba noodles with a kombu dashi broth, tofu with a lemongrass-miso glaze, and a mosaic-fashion sushi roll with seasonal vegetables.

A tuna zuke rose is served below a smoke-loaded cloche. Photograph courtesy NaRa-Ya.

The menus occur with various luxurious enhance selections these types of as Ossetra caviar, black truffle, and foie gras “snow.” Other add-ons incorporate marinated zuke tuna which is formed like a rose and introduced tableside less than a cherry wood smoke-crammed cloche. “It’s sort of like a just take on Magnificence and the Beast almost,” Irwin states. Even much more extravagant: a few ounces of Toki whisky-glazed Japanese A5 wagyu with kabocha-orange puree and a soy-treated jidori egg yolk. Irwin describes Japanese jidori chickens as the “wagyu of chickens,” which create deep-orange egg yolks rich in flavor.

NaRa-Ya’s cocktails infused Japanese substances. Photograph courtesy NaRa-Ya.

The food is accompanied by a substantial sake selection—available by the glass and bottle—and cocktails integrate ingredients like yuzu, matcha, and Japanese spirits. An outdated-fashioned is infused with toasted brown rice, although an additional whisky drink is unwanted fat-washed with wagyu. There’s also a range of Toki highballs, which include a single that mixes in Yamazaki 12-year for $36.

NaRa-Ya. 88 District Square, SW, 3rd floor. 202-301-8145. 

Jessica Sidman

Food stuff Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and traits powering D.C.’s foods and consume scene. Just before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food items Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington Metropolis Paper. She is a Colorado indigenous and University of Pennsylvania grad.