The minds behind Whaley’s insist its winter disguise is a natural fit. The raw bar in Navy Yard will take on a new name this week, filling the dining room with dozens of paper lanterns while transforming into a Japanese-style shabu-shabu spot called Fuyu on Wednesday, December 19.
To co-owner Nick Wiseman and chef Daniel Perron, the leap from a restaurant influenced by classic Maryland seafood houses to a place that services thinly sliced proteins in gently simmering dashi broth is a small one to make. The restaurant’s commitment to sourcing high quality products from waters around the world is at the heart of both.
“It was about showcasing ingredients,” Wiseman tells Eater, “and that’s something we already do, [something] we always do.”
The idea was to create a draw for a neighborhood that can start to feel like an abandoned beach town in the winter. The application calls for customers to swish well-marbled beef, pork, vegetables, or Whaley’s carefully curated seafood — big eye tuna from Hawaii, wild shrimp from Alabama, or scallops from Massachusetts, for example — into simmering dashi or red miso broth.
The seafood towers that helped build Whaley’s reputation will remain, but they’ll come with new condiments such as ginger aioli, persimmon mignonette, and wasabi cocktail sauce.
Beverage director Brian Zipin developed a new menu that includes Japanese cocktails and sake. One of his creations mixes Japanese whiskey aged in a sherry cask with a plum and seven-spice shrub.
Perron says he has no formal training in Japanese cooking, but he says he’s been incorporating traditional ingredients such as yuzu into his cooking for a long time.
Perron says making fresh Japanese Udon noodles has been “surprisingly easy,” but he’s been tweaking his recipe for months, experimenting with the addition of potato starch while he finds the right chew. The noodles will be added to the shabu-shabu broth at the end of the meal as a finishing touch.
Seasonal shared plates call for more immaculate fish — like a black cod brought in from British Columbia or a special 30-pound King salmon farmed in New Zealand — to pass through a grill fueled by super hot, clean-tasting binchotan charcoal.
One of Perron’s new small plates is a sunchoke okonomiyaki —or savory pancake — made with Benton’s Bacon, kimchi mayo, and katsuobushi (smoked and fermented fish shavings). A selection of sashimi will be available from the raw bar.
“There’s a lot of bad riffs out there,” Perron says. “We want to be able to pay respect the traditional Japanese dishes but still put our own little twist to it.”
Wiseman and Perron were part of a Whaley’s contingent that went to New York to research shabu-shabu. They were most impressed by Shabu Shabu Macoron, where chef Mako Okano serves up the world’s only shabu-shabu omakase menu.
Before that, they knew they wanted to accept the challenge when they floated the idea of a shabu-shabu experiment with family and friends in the restaurant industry.
“I think the first thing that comes up is, ‘I’ve never done that before,’ or, ‘It’s been a while since I’ve done shabu-shabu,’” Perron says. “There’s not really a proper place in D.C. like that. I think it just clicked. So a light bulb just went off immediately, and I think it’s the perfect idea for winter at Whaley’s.”
Fuyu will run at Whaley’s until mid-March, right before the Washington Nationals start drawing crowds back to Navy Yard. Read the entire menu below: