Japanese Omakase Restaurant Coming to the Trump Hotel

A Trump sign stands outside the Trump International Hotel, formerly the Old Post Office Pavilion, Saturday, April 16, 2016, in Washington. (Phelan M. Ebenhack via AP)

The Trump International Hotel will get a second restaurant after all. Nakazawa, a Japanese omakase bar and dining room, is slated to open in the back of the Old Post Office building next summer. It comes from the same group behind Sushi Nakazawa in New York, whose chef Daisuke Nakazawa made an appearance in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi and earned the highest rating of four stars from the New York Times in 2013.

The announcement comes amid ongoing litigation between the hotel and the companies of celebrity chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian. Both backed out of plans to open restaurants in the hotel after Donald Trump‘s controversial remarks about immigrants at the launch of his presidential bid.

“I feel bad for them,” Nakazawa owner Alessandro Borgognone says of Andrés and Zakarian. “My decisions are not clouded by political views or what I feel in my heart, right or wrong. Anytime that we decide something on business, it’s what’s best for the business.”

Borgognone says he’s not concerned about his ability to attract staff or patrons—concerns cited by Andrés and Zakarian in their lawsuits. Asked if he was a Trump supporter, Borgognone said he didn’t support anyone. “My political views are whatever is best for this country,” he says.

The DC location of Nakazawa will be “extremely similar” to its New York counterpart in terms of the style of service, menu, and price ($150 at the bar, $120 in the dining room), Borgognone says. He’s considering an a la carte menu for lunch but hasn’t made a decision yet.

The dining room will serve 30 to 40 guests while the sushi bar will seat no more than 10. It will have a clean, sleek, contemporary look.

The Trumps and local real estate firm Streetsense scrambled to find replacement restaurants after the splits with Andrés and Zakarian. The hotel ultimately lured BLT Prime to replace Andrés’ fine dining Spanish restaurant and turned the Zakarian space into a ballroom. Nakazawa will not be located where Zakarian’s The National was supposed to go, but in a different area near the back of the hotel with its own private entrance.

“I didn’t want anyone’s old space,” Borgognone says.

The restaurateur says he’s been looking to open a restaurant in DC for a couple years. In fact, he had his eye on the Trump hotel before Andrés and Zakarian signed on. At the time, though, he says he had too much else going on in New York. (His Bedford Street Hospitality also operates Chumley’s, Positano, and Patricia’s.) He made a lease deal with the hotel about a month ago, before Trump was elected president.

Still, the addition of Nakazawa is a bit of a surprise given how insistent the Trumps were that their restaurants open simultaneously with the hotel. They turned away several potential tenants because of timeline concerns.

In a deposition in the Zakarian lawsuit, Donald Trump Jr. called building out a restaurant after the hotel’s debut “sort of a worst-case scenario.”

“Anything is possible,” Ivanka Trump added in her deposition. “It’s just an issue of cost, disruption, our guest satisfaction ratings. You do not want to be having a large-scale construction project in an operating hotel, in the heart of a building.”

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.