City Paper is not for tourists
One of D.C.’s most seasoned sushi chefs is partnering with longtime hospitality industry pros Adrian Williams, Ari Wilder, and Micah Wilder to bring Shaw a sushi and yakitori restaurant with late night karaoke. Zeppelin is set to open this month in the handsome gray building that both The Shaw Bijou and French Quarter Brasserie briefly called home.
The Wilder brothers have been serving a different kind of Japanese cuisine, ramen, around the corner at Chaplin’s since 2014. For their entree into sushi they called upon Chef Minoru Ogawa of Sushi Ogawa to serve his signature Edomae-style nigiri sushi, plus sashimi and traditional maki. “We are never fusion,” Ogawa says. “We are modern classic.”
It’s a reunion of sorts for three of the four partners. Williams, Ogawa, and Ari all worked together at former Dupont Circle nightlife spot Cafe Japone, which closed in 2013. Williams has always wanted to have a yakitori restaurant and the Wilder brothers were dead set on doing sushi and karaoke for their next concept. “We didn’t want to do a sushi place and then find people to make sushi,” Ari says. They wanted to work with Ogawa.
Ogawa, a Tokyo native, hopes to carry 30 varieties of fish and shellfish, some of which will come from his home city’s Toyosu Market. The sushi can be ordered a la carte in certain parts of the 3,000-square-foot restaurant. Nigiri sushi starts at $2.75 per piece and maki start at $5.45.
Diners can also partake in three omakase tasting menus. The first features 15 pieces of nigiri ($65); the second includes appetizers, clam miso soup, 15 pieces of nigiri, and dessert ($85); and the third is a feast with appetizers, clam miso soup, 15 pieces of nigiri, seven pieces of sashimi, and a hand roll ($100). Optional drink pairings will be offered for an additional $40 to $50. Ogawa blends his own vinegar for the rice and grates his own fresh wasabi.
The tasting menus are available at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. nightly at a 12-seat omakase bar on the second floor. Next to the omakase counter is a 65-seat main dining room that converts into a karaoke party around 10:30 p.m. So far Zepellin has amassed 30,000 song choices. While there’s no charge for karaoke, there will be a small minimum order requirement.
Downstairs, the focus is on cocktails and yakitori—skewers of various chicken parts grilled over binchotan charcoal. There’s a standing table in the yakitori kitchen so diners can get the full effect of being at a tachinomiya (standing bar) in Japan. Cooks will also use the grill to char short ribs, various vegetables, Kobe beef, and rice balls.
Beverages will include a 40-bottle wine list with 15 selections by the glass, 80 varieties of sake, and 16 cocktails that prominently feature Japanese spirits. Some of the cocktails will be on draft, others will utilize a highball machine. Ari says all of the beer on draft will be Japanese or Japanese-inspired. There’s also a cider flavored with umeboshi (pickled plum); Zeppelin partnered with Maryland’s Distillery Lane Ciderworks to make it. The Zeppelin team worked with Teaism to put together a tea selection.
Reid & Taylor Studio transformed the space based on the restaurant’s theme of celebrating the golden age of great passenger airships. A Zeppelin was a rigid airship, named after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of Germany, that slowly soared at the start of the 20th Century. “It’s like an airship cocktail party,” Micah explains. “They used to have like little supper clubs.” There’s also a tie-in with the Wilder brothers’ other restaurant, Chaplin’s, because they both nod at the period when silent movies were popular.
Zeppelin will be open for dinner Sundays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Fridays through Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Yes, that means late night sushi. The bar will stay open until last call.
Reservations are accepted through OpenTable.
Patio seating will be available during the warmer months.
Zeppelin, 1544 9th St. NW; (202) 506-1769; Zeppelindc.com