If there’s one trend that’s both telling of the present dining culture and promising for its future, it’s young chefs opening small, ambitious restaurants (think Toki Underground or Little Serow). The latest: Suna, a tasting-menu-only eatery tucked inside the former apartment and office space above Acqua Al 2 in Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market neighborhood.
Though Acqua’s Ari Gejdenson is the owner—he lived in the space before it was converted to a restaurant— the 36-seat, reservations-only operation is wholly separate from the bustling neighborhood trattoria downstairs. Chef Johnny Spero’s résumé includes time at Komi, Town House in Chilhowie, Virginia, and Copenhagen’s ultra-famous Noma, and his concept for Suna reflects these influences. Walk up a low-lit staircase from street level and you’ll find a serene yet cozy dining room lined with painted brick walls and refinished beams, with only a single menu on the wooden tables. The card offers two options: a four-course tasting menu for $48, or eight courses for $78. Wine pairings can be provided for both, and in the future, cocktails and beers will be designed to complement dishes.
A minimalist approach to dishes—designed to let seasonal ingredients shine through the preparation—extends to the menu, as well, which is broken down into a main ingredient like “pork” or “fowl,” and at most three of its accompaniments (for example, “tahini, kale, daikon”). Opt for the eight-course, and there are no choices or telling details; you’re simply letting the kitchen cook for you. That’s not to say dishes—plates are custom-designed for the restaurant by ceramicist Amber Kendrick—are sparse, or preparations simple. Kampachi fish is lightly smoked with ginger root tops, and arrives with thinly sliced, cured eggplant and pickled husk cherries; lightly cooked mussels float in a ham dashi (a Japanese-style broth) with purple potatoes. One small component of a winter vegetable appetizer is a celery root that takes more than eight hours to prepare, including a lengthy soak in a calcium bath to create a crust, and a slow braise in simple syrup and sarsaparilla to soften the center. Two of the sous chefs harvest what they can in season from their homes in Virginia, and wild sorrel is picked for the mussel dish from a nearby Capitol Hill lot. Foraged ingredients may be all the rage at the moment, but “we don’t want to do it because it’s trendy,” Spero insists. “We do it because it makes sense.”
Suna. 214 Seventh St., SE; 202-450-4585 (reservations required). Open Tuesday through Saturday, beginning at 5:30.