New ownership has transformed the Old Town, Alexandria, space that used to house pioneering speakeasy PX and the Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper pub into a different two-piece project, albeit one that still traffics in cocktails and seafood.
Upstairs at 728 King Street, a gold-adorned bar called King’s Ransom replaces PX. Handover, a bamboo-lined sushi restaurant specializing in temaki (hand rolls), moves into the old spot for fish and chips.
Nationally known PX can be credited with sparking D.C.’s craft cocktail boom, but Todd Thrasher closed it last summer after a 13 year-run in the historic row house. At King’s Ransom, beverage director Jon Schott (the People’s Drug) and Alex Taylor (Hank’s Oyster Bar) will pour Japanese whiskeys and employ a rare toki highball machine to mix chilled, carbonated cocktails.
The Handover refers to how servers will deliver temaki across a minimalist, 13-seat bar. Chef Melvin Urrutia, also of the People’s Drug, has rolls packed with avocado miso, spicy tuna, hamachi, or shrimp tempura fillings. There’s also a short lineup of sashimi and small plates like miso soup, seaweed salad, and edamame with bonito sea salt. Guests fill out orders with pencils and could be in and out in as little as 30 minutes.
“There’s other sushi options, but not other hand roll options in this market,” co-owner Teddy Kim says, adding the narrow space fits well for a quick-serve hand roll shop.
Hot or cold sake comes in porcelain cups. There are also familiar Japanese beers like Kirin, ginger lemonade, iced green tea, and bottles of Japanese Ramune sodas.
Chef specials will include seasonal items like caviar-topped California sea urchin or fish sourced from Hawaii and Japan. One of Kim’s friends owns an Asian pear farm in Stafford, which explains the fresh fruit in the bulgogi hand roll.
“We are dealing with ingredients that aren’t very common at a sushi bar,” Kim says.
Hand rolls also integrate shiitake, yamagobo (Japanese pickled burdock root), oshinko (made from pickled daikon), and cucumber with ume (Japanese plum paste). An offbeat add-on of blanched and pickled baby octopus offers Old Town diners a vibrant pink treat.
While Handover has clean lines and a tranquil aesthetic, the upstairs cocktail bar skews darker. King’s Ransom references the British influence over Hong Kong, complete with 23-karat gold logos of a king and moon and black velvet chairs with golden legs.
Co-owner Ian McGrath says the design is supposed to show off an “idea of James Bond sophistication, but bringing it back a notch.”
The wasabi martini is a riff on a dirty classic, combining wasabi-infused Haku Vodka, a ginger green tea dry vermouth blend, and a dash of sea salt. Pouring it into a chilled coupe glass creates an aromatic green tea fog. Instead of olives, it comes with salted edamame and pickled ginger.
A gin-based tiki drink, the Thanks for the Fish, is served with Tyku Coconut Sake, pineapple, lime, and hibiscus air bubbles. A Lovely Day mimics a Spanish-style gin and tonic without the booze, made with Seedlip Garden 108.
Despite some elaborate-looking presentations, Schott says drinking at King’s Ransom is supposed to be inviting.
“We strive to be approachable and avoid the stigma of a leather-and-apron bartender who is holier than thou,” he says.
Everyday orders like a vodka and soda or rum and coke come are welcome, and they come with an extra perk: sodas come out of the highball machine. It also produces the carbonated water for shrimp tempura batter.
Look for five curated highballs, ten rotating cocktails, and four spirit-free options to go with beer and wine ($10-$16).
Food upstairs will include bento boxes and poke bowls. Creative tuna tostadas with daikon radish arrive on an avocado shell.
“I grew up eating avocados my whole life,” says Urrutia, a native Salvadoran.
The Handover is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and King’s Ransom goes from 5 p.m. to midnight and until 1 a.m. on weekends.