YUME Hospitality opens a non-traditional take on Japanese fine dining.
Walk into KYOJIN, the second concept from the team behind YUME Sushi, and you’re greeted by a sultry space that feels hidden away from the buzz of Georgetown streets. You’re tucked away on Cady’s Alley, enveloped by a moody space designed by Francois Frossard Design that contrasts sleek, modern detailing, gold and emerald accents and dramatic lighting with exposed brick walls that feel like they’ve watched centuries of stories pass through their corridors.
This new take on Japanese fine dining actually sprawls out over 5,000 subterranean feet — and that’s how it gets its name.
After laying eyes on the property, co-founders Jeff King and Chef Saran “Peter” Kannasute dubbed the restaurant “KYOJIN,” which means “giant” in Japanese. Inspired by the potential in the space, they had the idea to do non-traditional Japanese fine dining, with late night seatings Thursday through Sunday, a sake bar and an upcoming omakase offering.
Unlike YUME Sushi, KYOJIN has a full kitchen, giving Chef Kannasute the ability to prepare hot dishes, and his newfound freedom to experiment doesn’t disappoint.
Used to ordering from more traditional sushi menus, my first reaction to dishes pairing foie gras with eel, and truffle with kanpachi was: “The scallop salad looks refreshing, but otherwise, surprise me.”
And that was the right move.
The scallop salad was, indeed, refreshing, with mango salsa, seaweed, garlic ponzu sauce and chili yuzu sauce. Sauces are a focus at KYOJIN — and that’s something that differentiates it from other fine dining sushi restaurants.
Next came the hot starters. First, the crispy calamari, which is something I often skip on menus at higher-end restaurants, but KYOJIN’s take is coated in the lightest tempura batter and served with a perfectly sweet orange sauce. The house made gyoza are packed with indulgent, steamy flavors, including Wagyu beef, Iberico pork with lobster, ginger, garlic and scallion. The creamy mustard sauce that accompanies them is subtle, exactly what you want paired with the richness of the gyoza.
A uni shooter with Hokkaido sea urchin followed the starters, offering a hint at the presentation of the dishes to come. With chili yuzu, garlic ponzu, sake and yuzu ice served in a half a lemon, it made for a crisp transition.
Carpaccio-style fish served with French caviar, truffle wasabi, black truffle carpaccio and finished with Asian carpaccio sauce and shoyu garlic ponzu introduced us to Chef Kannasute’s signature at KYOJIN — blending innovative, unexpected flavors with a stunning sushi presentation. The garlic butter miso scallops are so smooth, warm and creamy, I wasn’t sure which part stood out the most. Is it the sashimi style scallop? The butter garlic miso? The wasabi truffle? The eel sauce and truffle oil? There’s so much going on, yet you’ll be tempted to place a second order.
I sat at the chef’s counter watching him artfully top nigiri with a brushstroke of soy sauce, wasabi truffle and a sprinkle of black truffle salt, and the server explained that these nigiri were made with two fish I’d never tried before. Madai — known as the king of fish — and kinmedai happened to be the specialty the chef was able to bring in that day, and they were so incredibly fresh and perfectly accompanied with the seasonings.
But the standout of the meal is fittingly called The Winner, and it’s Chef Kannasute’s award-winning dish. There’s a delicate tuna rose sitting atop seared foie gras, which is followed by BBQ eel and a base of sushi rice. It’s finished with French caviar, truffle oil, balsamic reduction, eel sauce, pink ginger sauce, black bamboo salt and red lava salt. Our server, who was an incredible guide through every dish, recommended splitting it into two bites. But, after the first bite, you’ll want to split it again, hoping to savor just one more taste.
And after that last bite, you’ll start planning a reason to come back.
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