Chef Jonah Kim Splits With Mike Isabella and Yona

Jonah Kim has left Yona in Ballston. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Chef Jonah Kim has departed from Yona, the noodle bar and small plates restaurant that carries the Korean and Japanese pronunciation of his name. The Ballston restaurant was a partnership with Mike Isabella, but the menu and concept was all Kim’s.

“Not all partnerships work out,” Mike Isabella says in a statement emailed from his publicist. “This one didn’t and Jonah has parted ways with [Mike Isabella Concepts]. We will continue to develop the concept and menu within our team. I wish Jonah nothing but the best.” He declined to elaborate on the cause and timing of the split.

Kim did not respond to calls for comment.

The restaurant was initially a 50-50 business partnership between Isabella and Kim. Asked whether Kim retains a financial stake, Isabella’s publicist Justin Rude says, “Mike doesn’t discuss the details of his business partnerships. And to reinforce what Mike said in his statement, Jonah has completely parted ways with Mike Isabella Concepts.”

The chefs initially got to know each other while Kim was in his previous job at Pabu, a now-defunct Japanese restaurant at the Four Seasons in Baltimore. The two became friends and even vacationed together with a group of other chefs before they teamed up on Yona, which opened last November.

In June, Kim was named “Rising Star Chef of the Year” at the RAMMY Awards for his work at Yona.

All mentions of Kim have since been erased from Yona’s website. And the uni waffle, one of Kim’s signature dishes, is gone from the menu.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.