The first-time restaurateurs behind Japanese-themed Momo Yakitori say they are just weeks away from introducing Woodridge diners to grilled skewers that range from tame (trumpet mushrooms) to adventurous (duck hearts).
Couple and business partners Masako Morishita and Andrew Chiou, who also operate a catering company called M’s Kitchen, tell Eater they’re shooting for a mid-February opening for their new casual eatery at 2214 Rhode Island Avenue NE.
The two both grew up around yakitori, which translates to grilled chicken in Japanese and features foods cooked over binchotan charcoal. The simple rectangular-shaped paper menu — which guests can check off, sushi bar style — is split into snacks, vegetables, chicken, and miscellaneous sections.
Momo’s buildout was fairly simple, thanks to the space’s former life as Mediterranean restaurant Nido (which shuttered late last year). Its existing modern design — including soaring ceilings, white brick walls, clean lines, colorful tiles, and light woods — translates well to a Japanese restaurant.
Chiou, an alum of now-shuttered Shaw restaurant Table, is originally from Taiwan, which adopted the yakitori trend (it’s considered “heavy and smoky” street food, he says) during its time under Japanese rule. Morishita hails from Kobe, Japan. Her family, which has owned and managed a liquor store in Kobe for generations, is helping craft a drink list focusing on shochu instead of just sake. Local sommelier Andrew Stover is helping consult on the wine front.
Momo, which means thigh in Japanese, is also the name of the owners’ fluffy grey cat. The couple integrates their shared love of felines (they’ve got three total) in other ways, as well. Finish off the yaki onigiri (a seared rice ball in chicken broth) and find an image of the animal at the bottom of the soup bowl. And quirky coffee cups used to collect discarded skewers depict cats wearing sunglasses.
Another fun fact: Morishita is retiring from being a Redskins cheerleader this year after five seasons.
Featured skewers, which come one per order, include locally sourced chicken breast adorned with plum, miso, or black garlic, and pierced seasonal veggies such as trumpet mushrooms, eggplant, shishito peppers, and sweet pumpkin. Bowls of cabbage with vinegar and sesame dressing serve as a mid-meal palate cleanser.
Under their beak-to-tail approach, there’s some off-menu items that’ll be available on a limited basis. Think: duck and liver hearts and even chicken “butt” — bite-sized pieces made from the tail end of the bird.
Momo Yakitori is projected to open with weekend-only dinner service to start; nightly dinner is expected to follow in March.