April 22, 2021


All Things Delicious

What to Take in at NaRa-Ya, the Wharf’s New High-End Japanese Tasting Place

5 min read

Lucas Irwin distinguishes himself from the relaxation of the modest crew at NaRa-Ya, a higher-conclusion Japanese restaurant that opens next 7 days on the Southwest Waterfront, when he turns his interest away from a countertop wherever he’s been braiding tangerine-coloured strands of uncooked salmon and lifts his head to say hi there. On a current pay a visit to to the kitchen area in the third-tale place that seems in excess of the Potomac River, the Hawaiian chef wiggled his pinky and thumb to flash a welcoming a “hang ten” hand gesture.

Irwin, the latest in a string of sushi chefs connected to the extended-producing waterfront cafe, remaining Maui a lengthy time in the past, utilizing knowledge functioning for Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Hawai’i legend Alan Wong as a springboard to vacation about the state for positions in destinations like Beaver Creek, Colorado, the island of Nantucket, and, most lately, Palm Seaside, Florida, where by he answered a Craigslist advert from NaRa-Ya culinary director Kaz Okochi. The “neo-traditional” Japanese dishes Irwin ideas to send out when NaRa-Ya opens for indoor dining on Wednesday, March 10, retain a tropical island vibe with a flood of colorful flowers and fruits like kiwi, passionfruit, and sweet kumquats.

When a lot of fantastic eating venues have adopted a extra relaxed tactic through the COVID-19 pandemic, NaRa-Ya (88 District Square SW) is heading the reverse route. Parking is a challenge at the Wharf growth, which would make carryout and supply tough, and there’s no out of doors seating. So instead of the contemporary izakaya Okochi prepared to establish a year in the past, the cafe is opening with a tasting menu-only format that involves three choices: vegan ($75), normal ($89), and “luxury” ($135). Irwin suggests Okochi (Kaz Sushi Bistro) has given him the eco-friendly mild to set collectively prix fixes with a theatrical method to match the restaurant’s maximalist style and design. Inside NaRa-Ya, seats are covered in very hot pink leopard print fabric, and one wall is wrapped in a print of cherry blossoms in peak bloom.

A NaRa-Ya roll with Alaskan king crab, purple sweet potato, and A5 Japanese wagyu beef.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

The NaRa-Ya roll, for case in point, 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-internet site. Irwin used that course of action at Morimoto Maui and claims he only knows of a number of other sites in the U.S. that do it.

“It just modifications the grain totally, and you have a fresher product or service,” Irwin says. “You can explain to the big difference, you can odor it.”

Two procedures Irwin suggests he’s created around time are incredibly hot rock cooking — presented tableside at Nara-Ya with Sixty South salmon that is raised devoid of antibiotics off the southern tip of Chile — and zuke tuna (marinated in dashi, mirin, and soy) carried to the table in a cigarette smoking chamber. A further merchandise Irwin expects to appeal to interest is a plate of torched tuna marrow. Cross-sections of fish backbone clearly show off the gelatinous products topped with ponzu sauce, scallions, and momiji oroshi (a spicy daikon condiment).

“I’d say it is nearly got its own taste,” Irwin suggests. “It’s a tiny salty, but it is a savory salty with this kind of light, lavish gelatin taste, gelatin texture. It is a thing that you just can’t seriously review to something.”

Tuna bone marrow served with ponzu sauce, scallions, and momiji oroshi (a spicy daikon condiment) at NaRa-Ya.

Tuna bone marrow served with ponzu sauce, scallions, and momiji oroshi (a spicy daikon condiment).
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Grilled squab over a puree of shishito pepper and miso with crispy enoki mushrooms from NaRa-Ya

Grilled squab around a puree of shishito pepper and miso with crispy enoki mushrooms
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

Irwin’s vegan prix fixe contains classes like inexperienced tea soba noodles in a shiitake eco-friendly tea dashi (chazuke) crammed with “ultra-baby” bok choy, pickled carrot flowers and parsnips, viola bouquets, 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 more than a puree of shishito pepper and miso. For a surcharge, tables can pile on marked “luxury touches” which includes caviar, foie gras, truffles, new wasabi root, toro, and a lot more wagyu.

Basic manager Michael Deery, a Nobu alum, has stocked the bar with sake bottles that charge everywhere from $26 to $1,800. Eaternity Hospitality Group owners Naeem Mohd and Rajiv Chadha, who also have Mediterranean location La Vie instantly over NaRa-Ya, inquired about shopping for Deery’s private Japanese whisky collection for the restaurant, but he states he’s holding onto it as an expenditure for his daughter’s faculty fund. Bar Manager Ali Altayli is using Suntory Toki and Ichiro’s Malt and Grain inside florid cocktails, too.

The women’s bathroom at NaRa-Ya boasts a bidet

The women’s rest room at NaRa-Ya boasts a bidet
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.

When D.C. eases ability restrictions on indoor eating, NaRa-Ya will insert a full a la carte menu with some of the touches Okochi, the culinary director, initially envisioned. That will contain which includes takoyaki (octopus balls) served with grilled octopus legs and okonomiyaki, savory pancakes loaded with sauces and garnishes that Irwin’s Japanese grandfather applied to make him for breakfast, lunch, and meal.

D.C. currently lets indoor eating at 25 % potential, which would allow Nara-Ya to host about 30 shoppers at a time. Restaurant employees are not nevertheless qualified for the vaccine in the District, though they are detailed as portion of the Tier 1C team that just opened up appointments for people with qualifying health care circumstances. COVID-19 circumstances in the District have been steadily declining due to the fact mid-January, even though there’s been a 9 per cent rise in new cases above the previous 7 days. The CDC classifies indoor eating at a restaurant as a “larger-risk” activity for exposure to the virus.

Irwin is on the lookout ahead to a time when he can serve his full menu. He’s pumped about the arrival of the once-a-year cherry blossom competition, even though organizers are emphasizing virtual gatherings this calendar year. He’s arranging to provide sakura-infused rice, but is not sure if he’s authorized to acquire neighborhood bouquets.

“I do not want to get arrested for stealing cherry blossoms,” Irwin suggests. “Right now we’re just sourcing them from Japan.”

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