After nearly two years of serving critically acclaimed Japanese chicken skewers in Woodridge, Momo Yakitori will close at the end of the month.
The full-service restaurant and bar will shut down after service on Sunday, December 29, owner Andrew Chiou says. Until then, the restaurant will run limited hours, opening Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The sleek space (2214 Rhode Island Avenue NE) will continue to house private events, pop-ups with guests chefs, and catering services next year, Chiou says, noting his lease runs through the end of 2020.
“We’ve reached a point where we need a different kitchen and space,” he says, adding that he’s currently working with brokers to find a new location.
Its destination yakitori, which ranged from trumpet mushrooms to duck hearts and liver, helped earn Momo Yakitori a spot on Eater D.C.’s essential 38 last year. Washington Post reporter Tim Carman approved of the varying textures of the skewers and small plates.
Chiou says hit dishes included a charcoal toasted marshmallow dessert, along with green beans with black sesame sauce, grilled maitake mushrooms with red chile miso, and A5 wagyu beef skewers.
“We love yakitori and the menu has been well-received, so there won’t be any drastic changes” at its next iteration, Chiou says. A 2.0 menu could expand to include Japanese comfort food like curry or yakisoba for lunch.
Chiou debuted the casual eatery with then-girlfriend Masako Morishita in February 2018. The two both grew up around yakitori, which translates to grilled chicken in Japanese and features foods cooked over binchotan charcoal.
The restaurant hit a snag this spring amid a personal and professional breakup between the couple. Morishita filed a lawsuit against Chiou, claiming she worked without pay for a year and seeking nearly $66,000 in damages from her ex-boyfriend, the legal owner of the business. Chiou claims Morishita was never formally an employee of the restaurant.
“We can’t discuss the lawsuit at this time,” he says, adding “the lawsuit certainly didn’t help” the restaurant.
Morishita, whose family is from Kobe, Japan, has since started a roving pop-up, called Otabe, focusing on Japanese comfort food.
Momo Yakitori slid into the space formerly occupied by Mediterranean restaurant Nido, which closed in late 2017. Its existing modern design — including soaring ceilings, white brick walls, clean lines, colorful tiles, and light woods — was largely unchanged. A playful cat theme was prevalent across its walls and cups.
The 32-seat main level is joined by a basement bar slinging cocktails and bowls of college dorm staple Cup Noodles. The offbeat restaurant offering gets upgraded with roasted pork belly and nitamago, a soft-boiled egg marinated in Momo’s smoky tare.
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.
Chiou shared a flyer that he’s posting to the door of the restaurant with Eater. “We’ve been a part of first dates and anniversaries,” it says. “We’ve celebrated graduations, promotions, and other life milestones with you. We’ve heard stories of heartaches and even shared a few of our own ... we hope to see you at least one more time before the end of the year.”