Food

5 Things to Know About Petworth’s “New Japanese” Restaurant: Himitsu

Himitsu serves "new Japanese" fare and an ambitious cocktail program to Petworth. Photography by Farrah Skeiky.

The newest addition to the Petworth dining scene isn’t your average sushi joint. Himitsu, housed in the former Crane & Turtle/Cappy’s Crabs space, brings a “New Japanese” restaurant and bar to Upshur Street—a melting pot style, similar to New American, that’s grounded in Japan and includes a global range of influences.

Owners Kevin Tien and Carlie Steiner are young—29 and 25, respectively— but they’re not new to the industry. Both worked in restaurants since the age of 14, and boast impressive resumes that place them in the trenches of high-ranking establishments; he was a sushi chef at Houston’s Uchi and a morning line cook at Pineapple & Pearls, she an early alum of Barmini. Through the local crowd funding platform EquityEats, they launched an ongoing fundraising campaign, and were able to open their first restaurant.

Here’s what to know before you go.

You can order sushi alongside fried chicken

If there’s a dish that’s emblematic of Tien’s New Japanese style, it’s the buttermilk-fried chicken karaage. The dish speaks to his Louisianan and Asian roots with Korean gochujang glaze, house-made sweet pickles, and Kewpie mayo. Patrons can also pick from shareable hot and cold plates, and a curated selection of sushi, sashimi, and creative rolls—think  big-eye tuna with jalapeño, cucumber, sambal chili sauce, and Japanese togarashi spice.

Nigiri are fashioned out of fish flown in from Japan, or vegetarian-friendly produce. All are brushed with a house soy mixture.
Nigiri are fashioned out of fish flown in from Japan, or vegetarian-friendly produce. All are brushed with a house soy mixture.

Cocktails aren’t a starter—they’re the main show

Steiner co-founded Stir Bartending Co., a cocktail consulting company, so naturally her libations star. At Himitsu, she designed creations to be paired with the whole meal. Diners can try multiple drinks thanks to low-alcohol creations like a mix of sake, smoked green tea, pineapple vinegar, and shiso.

Cocktails can be paired with dishes, and sometimes inspiration from the kitchen like this togarashi-spiced sip.
Cocktails can be paired with dishes, and sometimes inspiration from the kitchen like this togarashi-spiced sip.

The space turns into a bar/lounge after dinner

The beverage list runs long and eclectic, with a bounty of Sherry, Italian amaro, Japanese beer, classic cocktails, and Steiner’s innovations. Drinkers can linger after dinner hours, and try options like the “Nickelback Pickle Back”—whiskey, house-made pickles and their juice—that are more suited to late-night imbibing. “We’ll be open as late as we’re legally allowed for people,” says Steiner. “We’re a true restaurant that’s open 5 to close.”

Drinkers can linger in the cozy space late into the evening.
Drinkers can linger in the cozy space late into the evening.

The place is small (i.e. four tops max)

The space went nautical over the summer for Cappy’s pop-up crab house, and has been transformed into a serene room thanks to potted plants and other touches from the design gurus at the Lemon Bowl. One thing that never changes: the restaurant’s small size, which holds only 24 seats, eight of which are at the bar. Hence only parties of four or less can be accommodated, all on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Lemon Bowl team put their expert touches on the space.
The Lemon Bowl team put their expert touches on the space.

Katsu sandos and brunch are coming soon

Tien will launch Sunday brunch soon, and lunch further down the road. The latter afternoon menu will be more casual and homey than the nighttime fare—think soups, stews and katsu sandos (i.e. crispy pork cutlet sandwiches).

Himitsu. 828 Upshur St., NW. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to late. 

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Anna Spiegel
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.