The Union Market district has almost every cuisine you can fathom from barbecue and Burmese to Indian dosas and high-end Italian. O-Ku will join the party next year serving a non-traditional Japanese menu that leans heavy on sushi rolls.
There are already three O-Ku restaurants to the south of D.C. in Charleston, Charlotte, and Atlanta and they’re no stranger to accolades. The Charleston location, where parent hospitality company The Indigo Road is based, has been named the best sushi restaurant in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure.
Steve Palmer, The Indigo Road managing partner, says he’s targeting April for the opening date at 1274 5th St. NE. Palmer got plugged into the Union Market district being developed by EDENS because they’ve worked with EDENS in other markets.
The 120-seat restaurant will have a cocktail lounge specializing in Japanese whisky and a 40-seat rooftop bar with a view of the Capitol dome.
While the menu will be dominated by modern sushi like other O-Ku restaurants, Palmer emphasizes that O-Ku doesn’t operate like a chain. There are differences at each location.
“Although we have three O-Kus, we’re not chain restaurant people,” he says. “The chef when they take over this O-Ku will have complete autonomy to do their food. That makes it unique.” A chef hasn’t been named yet.
One thing the District’s O-Ku will have that separates it from the pack is a wood-fired binchotan grill to cook robata skewers, for example. Palmer says they’re also switching up their typical sleek, modern design for a more industrial feel to better match the Union Market district vibe. Finally, Palmer says O-Ku cares just as much about hospitality as cuisine.
“It’s what my whole career has been based on,” he says. “We’re Southern people to the core. We’re friendly folk. We’re looking forward to coming to D.C. It’s a little intimidating, you guys are a big market.”
While menus at all three locations are different, take a look at Atlanta’s menu for a better idea of what to expect.