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Eric Shin has a full-time job as the principal percussionist for the National Symphony Orchestra. And now, he’s adding a side gig: owner of Seoulspice, a fast-casual Korean-fusion restaurant opening Friday at 145 N St. NE.
“I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant… I’ve sort of grown up in the industry,” says Shin, whose parents used to run a Korean restaurant in Atlanta up until the mid-1990s.
Shin says he and his wife were vacationing in Cape Cod two years ago when he met a guy named Robert Taft, who was previously chief operating officer of Fuddruckers and president of Au Bon Pain. “He was like, ‘Look, you’ve got to do this,'” Shin recalls. The restaurant vet offered his advice and a template on how to get started. “I said, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity, I might as well go for it.'”
The build-your-own menu offers a choice of rice bowls, tacos, salads, or “korritos,” which are burrito-sized Korean sushi rolls. Shin initially planned to cut the korritos into pieces like kimbap, Korean-style maki rolls, but the sushi slicer wouldn’t work with the huge rolls. Shin was about to give up when his wife suggested just serving it as a burrito. All of this was before burrito-sized sushi spots Buredo and Rolls By U had opened.
“It was a little bit of a risk, but I’m feeling a lot more confident about the decision now that it’s a trending food thing,” Shin says.
Whatever vessel diners choose can be stuffed with a choice of bulgogi beef, sweet and savory marinated chicken, pork marinated in a spicy chili sauce, or tofu. All of the proteins are based on traditional recipes that Shin’s mother used at her restaurant.
Veggie fillings range from kimchi to sesame marinated cucumbers, and housemade sauces include creamy sriracha and ginger-carrot. Shin says patrons can add as many ingredients as they want in their meal. Extras like a soy-marinated egg or avocado can also be added to any dish, along with toppings like crispy garlic and scallions. Six signature combinations are also available. Plus, the whole menu is gluten-free.
Seoulspice is working on getting its liquor license and plans to serve Korean Hite beer, Korean raspberry wine, and a yogurt-soju cocktail on tap that’s very popular in Korea. There will also be some Asian sodas as well as housemade juice.
All the furnishings in the NoMa space come from locals. Maryland designer Chad Omweg built custom steel tables and D.C.-based No Kings Collective painted a graffiti mural.
As for whether Shin will continue his percussion career with his new business underway? “Absolutely,” he says.
Seoulspice will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Seoulspice, 145 N St. NE, Suite 400, seoulspice.com
Photo courtesy Seoulspice