Lucas Irwin distinguishes himself from the relaxation of the small crew at NaRa-Ya, a high-end Japanese restaurant that opens next 7 days on the Southwest Waterfront, when he turns his awareness away from a countertop where by he’s been braiding tangerine-coloured strands of uncooked salmon and lifts his head to say good day. On a the latest check out to the kitchen in the third-story space that appears to be in excess of the Potomac River, the Hawaiian chef wiggled his pinky and thumb to flash a pleasant a “hang ten” hand gesture.
Irwin, the most recent in a string of sushi chefs connected to the lengthy-establishing waterfront restaurant, remaining Maui a extended time ago, employing practical experience doing work for Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Hawai’i legend Alan Wong as a springboard to journey close to the state for work in places like Beaver Creek, Colorado, the island of Nantucket, and, most just lately, Palm Beach front, Florida, the place he answered a Craigslist ad from NaRa-Ya culinary director Kaz Okochi. The “neo-traditional” Japanese dishes Irwin ideas to send out out when NaRa-Ya opens for indoor eating on Wednesday, March 10, retain a tropical island vibe with a flood of colorful bouquets and fruits like kiwi, passionfruit, and candy kumquats.
When many fantastic dining venues have adopted a far more casual solution throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, NaRa-Ya (88 District Square SW) is going the opposite route. Parking is a obstacle at the Wharf growth, which can make carryout and shipping challenging, and there is no outside seating. So as a substitute of the modern izakaya Okochi planned to establish a 12 months ago, the restaurant is opening with a tasting menu-only structure that contains three possibilities: vegan ($75), typical ($89), and “luxury” ($135). Irwin states Okochi (Kaz Sushi Bistro) has presented him the inexperienced gentle to set together prix fixes with a theatrical method to match the restaurant’s maximalist structure. Within NaRa-Ya, seats are protected in hot pink leopard print material, and a single wall is wrapped in a print of cherry blossoms in peak bloom.
The NaRa-Ya roll, for example, features a filling of Alaskan king crab and purple sweet potato, a topping of A5 Japanese wagyu beef with black garlic aioli and crispy onions, and rice which is been milled, or “polished,” on-site. Irwin employed that system at Morimoto Maui and states he only is aware of a handful of other places in the U.S. that do it.
“It just variations the grain absolutely, and you have a fresher solution,” Irwin suggests. “You can notify the variation, you can smell it.”
Two strategies Irwin states he’s formulated about time are hot rock cooking — offered tableside at Nara-Ya with Sixty South salmon that’s elevated devoid of antibiotics off the southern suggestion of Chile — and zuke tuna (marinated in dashi, mirin, and soy) carried to the desk in a smoking cigarettes chamber. An additional product Irwin expects to catch the attention of awareness is a plate of torched tuna marrow. Cross-sections of fish spine display off the gelatinous product or service topped with ponzu sauce, scallions, and momiji oroshi (a spicy daikon condiment).
“I’d say it is almost obtained its have flavor,” Irwin suggests. “It’s a minor salty, but it is a savory salty with this form of gentle, luxurious gelatin flavor, gelatin texture. It’s one thing that you just can’t truly evaluate to anything at all.”
Irwin’s vegan prix fixe features programs like inexperienced tea soba noodles in a shiitake inexperienced tea dashi (chazuke) stuffed with “ultra-baby” bok choy, pickled carrot bouquets and parsnips, viola flowers, and nasturtium. “Luxury” menu dishes span from an amuse bouche of passionfruit and uni butter on a rice cracker to grilled squab and crispy enoki mushrooms served in excess of a puree of shishito pepper and miso. For a surcharge, tables can pile on marked “luxury touches” including caviar, foie gras, truffles, fresh new wasabi root, toro, and a lot more wagyu.
General supervisor Michael Deery, a Nobu alum, has stocked the bar with sake bottles that charge wherever from $26 to $1,800. Eaternity Hospitality Group proprietors Naeem Mohd and Rajiv Chadha, who also have Mediterranean spot La Vie instantly over NaRa-Ya, inquired about getting Deery’s private Japanese whisky selection for the cafe, but he says he’s holding on to it as an financial commitment for his daughter’s school fund. Bar Manager Ali Altayli is employing Suntory Toki and Ichiro’s Malt and Grain within florid cocktails, as well.
After D.C. eases capacity limitations on indoor eating, NaRa-Ya will insert a whole a la carte menu with some of the touches Okochi, the culinary director, at first envisioned. That will incorporate which includes takoyaki (octopus balls) served with grilled octopus legs and okonomiyaki, savory pancakes loaded with sauces and garnishes that Irwin’s Japanese grandfather used to make him for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
D.C. at the moment will allow indoor dining at 25 per cent capability, which would let Nara-Ya to host about 30 clients at a time. Restaurant employees are not nevertheless eligible for the vaccine in the District, whilst they are detailed as part of the Tier 1C team that just opened up appointments for individuals with qualifying clinical problems. COVID-19 instances in the District have been steadily declining due to the fact mid-January, though there’s been a 9 % rise in new scenarios about the past week. The CDC classifies indoor dining at a cafe as a “better-risk” exercise for exposure to the virus.
Irwin is searching ahead to a time when he can provide his full menu. He’s pumped about the arrival of the once-a-year cherry blossom pageant, though organizers are emphasizing digital occasions this yr. He’s preparing to provide sakura-infused rice, but isn’t certain if he’s permitted to accumulate nearby flowers.
“I really do not want to get arrested for thieving cherry blossoms,” Irwin says. “Right now we’re just sourcing them from Japan.”