Swanky Japanese Restaurant Entangled in Authorized Drama Opens at the Wharf

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

A luxe new Japanese cafe at the Wharf is the scene for one in a collection of lawsuits alleging economic mismanagement and secret scheming among its initial proprietors. In Could of 2019, Social Restaurant Team owners Naeem Mohd and Rajiv Chadha, who are also behind La Vie and Provision No. 14, accused their estranged small business spouse Mike Bramson of seeking to steal away their Michelin-starred sushi chef, between other allegations. Virtually two years—and a pandemic—later, the lawsuit is however ongoing with a pretrial conference established for May well. In the meantime, the long-delayed restaurant—now called NaRa-Ya—finally opened very last week with “neo-traditional” Japanese tasting menus from a new culinary group.

Sushi Taro chef Nobu Yamazaki was at first tapped to oversee the menu of what was then heading to be termed Tabu. But he quickly split in the spring of 2019, all around the identical time that Bramson was marketing again his stake in the restaurant amid a slipping out with his partners. Mohd and Chadha allege Bramson secretly plotted to poach Yamazaki to open up their individual competing sushi cafe. (The two are partners in a quick-everyday sushi and dumpling stall in Ballston’s Quarter Current market, but very little presently at the Wharf.) The lawsuit claims Bramson and Yamazaki “purposefully and deliberately misled” Mohd into believing Yamazaki was still section of Tabu, and that Mohd in the end acquired of the chef’s departure from a City Paper write-up. The split was allegedly a enormous blow to the company that brought about “significant damages.”

In the meantime, a attorney symbolizing both Bramson and Yamazaki previously explained to Washingtonian that there was no conspiracy. He suggests that Yamazaki remaining for the reason that he felt Mohd was a “bully” and was worried that the restaurant was being monetarily mismanaged after understanding the restaurant’s landlord experienced issued a default discover. Mohd’s lawyer denied the bullying accusations and blamed the default detect on Bramson’s alleged mismanagement. There’s also an ongoing dispute about Yamazaki offering his shares in the restaurant.

Just after the major break up, Mohd and Chadha re-conceptualized the business and improved the name from Tabu to NaRa-Ya, which is a reference to the ancient money of Japan as well as the initially letters of their names (Naeem and Rajiv). They also turned to Kaz Sushi Bistro chef/operator Kaz Okochi as their new culinary director. They’ve since introduced in executive chef Lucas Irwin, whose vocation spans from Maui to Vail to Nantucket. He arrives to DC from LoLa 41 in Palm Beach front where by 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.

Whilst the pandemic has turned loads of significant-stop places to eat more informal, NaRa-Ya is going straight for the luxe with no takeout or outside eating. The cafe facilities all over tasting menus—one with meat and fish ($89) and the other vegan ($75). The former delivers dishes such 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 collection of sushi, such as some less-conventional 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 says offers it a floral aroma.

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

The vegan alternative characteristics eco-friendly tea soba noodles with a kombu dashi broth, tofu with a lemongrass-miso glaze, and a mosaic-style sushi roll with seasonal veggies.

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

The menus occur with many luxurious improve selections this kind of as Ossetra caviar, black truffle, and foie gras “snow.” Other add-ons involve marinated zuke tuna that is formed like a rose and offered tableside beneath a cherry wood smoke-loaded cloche. “It’s form of like a just take on Beauty and the Beast virtually,” Irwin says. 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 generate deep-orange egg yolks abundant in flavor.

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

The food stuff is accompanied by a massive 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, while a further whisky consume is unwanted fat-washed with wagyu. There’s also a selection of Toki highballs, like one that mixes in Yamazaki 12-yr for $36.

NaRa-Ya. 88 District Sq., SW, 3rd ground. 202-301-8145. 

Jessica Sidman

Foodstuff Editor

Jessica Sidman addresses the men and women and traits powering D.C.’s food items and consume scene. Right before becoming a member of Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Foods Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and College of Pennsylvania grad.