Photo of Japanese-style arancini by Masako Morishita
Photo of Japanese-style arancini by Masako Morishita

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Masako Morishita wants to bring D.C. a taste of what her parents have been cooking in Kobe, Japan for decades. They own a two-part business—on one side is a liquor store where patrons can pick up beer or sake and bring it over to the other side, a tachinomiya-style standing bar where Morishita’s mom serves dishes that play nice with alcohol.

Morishita, formerly of Momo Yakitori, recently struck out on her own with her Japanese comfort food company Otabe. Her first official event is a night market this upcoming weekend in Baltimore, but Otabe will make its D.C. debut on April 7 at a Japanese pop-up inside Prequel (919 19th St. NW).

“What I want to do is serve comfort food I used to grow up eating,” Morishita says. “I’m really good at making snacks for drinks.”

A trio of top D.C. bartenders—Al Thompson of barmini by José Andrés, Will Alvarez of The Green Zone, and Heriberto Cassanero of Copycat Co—sought to put on an event featuring Nikka whisky and Japanese-inspired cocktails for cherry blossom season. They tapped Otabe to create the menu for the pop-up they’re calling Sakura Night, and will make four drinks to pair with a five-course food menu.

Morishita says to expect miso-butter peanuts, sesame tofu, miso-charred cabbage steak, a Japanese take on Italian arancini (a fried, stuffed rice ball), various pickles, and a miniature okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake).

There will be 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. seatings on April 7. Tickets are $100 and include food, drink, tax, and tip.

Otabe will continue to operate as a catering and events company until Morishita can find space to open a restaurant.