A new ramen restaurant coming to the Atlas District wants diners to sport the right look before they step inside to slurp noodles.
Nightclub vets Wayne Johnson and Tony Perry (Saint Yves,Abigail) tell Eater they plan to have a dress code at Kitsuen Ramen + Hookah, the debut restaurant (1362 H Street NE) they are hoping to unveil this fall.
“We were looking to get into the food and beverage world and it’s been a passion project for a while,” co-founder Wayne Johnson says of the upscale venture. The two-story, 2,200-square-foot property is projected to have a hookah lounge upstairs, the fashionable ramen restaurant downstairs, and a cozy patio out back. The local firm behind the new look is Juliano Design Build, which worked on glamorous soon-to-open La Vie at the Wharf, as well as Graham speakeasy the Alex and downtown’s Pennsylvania 6.
Johnson says Kitsuen’s decor will “marry Asian inspiration with a contemporary feel.” He envisions staggered Japanese lanterns lining the interior. The upstairs is supposed to mimic upscale hookah lounges found in Europe and Dubai that feature high-end finishes and attentive service. Reverse exhaust fans are being installed to help minimize smoky air. The 950-square-foot patio will be a little more casual, featuring banquettes, cushions, a fire pit, and vines.
While the aforementioned dress code will be in effect, Johnson there won’t be DJs playing music or gyrating revelers packed onto a dance floor.
“We don’t want to give off the feel of a nightclub at all. It’s more of a POV at the W,” he says.
In terms of cuisine, Johnson says he and partner Tony Perry are fans of the ramen served at Chaplin’s and Haikan in Shaw, as well as Toki Underground — which is located just steps away from Kitsuen’s future home. They plan to put their own stamp on the cult favorite, and will also serve steamed buns, dumplings, and vegetarian options.
“We are taking the food aspect very seriously,” says Johnson, declining to disclose the TBA culinary team (though he confirmed they are local players). He adds that setting up shop a block away from Toki is exciting.
“I think our offering is a little different. It’s going to be more of a place to hang out and eat,” he says. “If you’re not hungry, it’s a place you want to go and have a cocktail on any given night.”
Johnson says the plan is to open in time for the neighborhood’s annual H Street Festival in mid-September. Renderings of the space are about two weeks out.
Saint Yves, which turned one in May, just made national headlines for hosting the Washington Capitals after their Stanley Cup win. Nearby, Abigail is getting polished by design firm Grupo-7 in preparation for a grand opening in late August.