Just as Petworth’s critically acclaimed Himitsu was preparing for a busy dinner service on Friday, September 21, a violent fight across the street caught the attention of its chef — who immediately ran to the victim’s aid.
“I look up and see two males assaulting a female in [Petworth Citizen’s] alley across from us,” Himitsu chef Kevin Tien told Eater during a phone interview on Monday. “She was pinned to the ground and they were beating the shit out of her. They picked her up and threw her on her head.”
Tien says the incident occurred around 5 p.m., and he and two members of his kitchen staff sprinted across the street to intervene and successfully break up the fight. That’s when a third unidentified male showed up with a metal pipe “swinging at us,” he says.
“One of my line cooks got hit with a pipe and one of my other line cooks got sucker punched in face. I got punched in my left eye,” he says.
A construction worker “showed up out of nowhere with a hammer to help us out,” he adds. Luckily, their injuries weren’t serious — aside from some bruises, according to Tien.
“We fought for like five minutes at least. It was crazy — customers in line were watching us fight across in the alley,” he says.
A Himitsu server phoned the police, and when the assailants heard the sirens they left the scene, along with the victim, according to Tien, who says he was told the altercation was likely related to a domestic dispute.
“We don’t know what happened to her. Hopefully she is in a safe place,” he says.
Some patrons in Himitsu’s queue split because they thought the assailants would return and retaliate (they didn’t).
“We lost some guests that night but ones who stayed appreciated everything. They wrote us notes thanking us and one [table] gave us 100 bucks to get beers after work,” says Tien, who returned to work that night.
He says the neighborhood, in general, is “always really safe” and hasn’t witnessed an attack like the one on Friday night before.
He also has a message to the victim, or any others in need of help: “We want her to know Himitsu is always a safe spot and she can always come to us, we will always be here — for anyone who needs a safe space.”
The incident came just days after an “unprovoked” fatal stabbing of a female jogger in Logan Circle.
A witness in line at Himitsu around 5 p.m. emailed Eater over the weekend corroborating the event.
“Kevin courageously jumped in to defend the woman without thinking about his own safety. I hope he gets more attention because I think what he did is not only selfless but also heroic,” wrote the anonymous tipster.
Update: On Thursday, September 27, Eater received a copy of the D.C. Police Department report Tien filed, which details injuries sustained by a metal pipe, noting the suspects “fled on foot ... toward the back of 830 Varnum Street NW. Officers knock on the front door [of that address] with no responses at the door.”
Tien just announced plans to a new 100-seat restaurant called Emilie’s on Capitol Hill next spring, and he plans to split his time between there and Himitsu. The new restaurant will be five times as large, with a private dining room and reservations added into the mix.
“You can expect the same atmosphere and service and more techniques to the food,” he says.