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All the Info on Tonari, “Japanese-style or ‘Wafu’ pasta and pizza” opening tonight in the former Graffiato space

Photo by Rey Lopez

Ed. Note: This is the spot with the dope indoor moss garden we looked at last week. I got to see it in person and it is incredibly cool. And of equal import – the food was delicious too. This is gonna be another very popular spot.

From a press release:

“Celebrated Daikaya Group partners Yama Jewayni, Katsuya Fukushima, and Daisuke Utagawa are thrilled to announce the opening of their fifth restaurant in the District – Tonari (at 707 6th Street, NW;; 202-289-8900) – meaning ‘next door’ or ‘neighbor’. Opening today – Friday, February 7th – at 5pm for dinner service, Tonari will serve as the first restaurant in Washington D.C. to showcase Japanese-style or ‘Wafu’ pasta and pizza located directly next to their flagship restaurant Daikaya in Chinatown. Lunch service, and a dessert tasting experience on the 2nd floor within Tonari is slated to launch in the coming weeks.

“At first we were a bit hesitant in taking over the space next door but we were also concerned about who might become our neighbor”, said Yama Jewayni, partner at Daikaya Group. “In a sense, we really wanted to repurpose and recycle the restaurant and that’s how we arrived at Wafu Italian pasta and pizza.”

“When the space ‘next door’ became available the immediate and exciting concept that came to mind was Japanese Wafu pasta and pizza”, said Katsuya Fukushima, Executive Chef and Partner at Daikaya Group. “Then the challenge of conveying what Wafu is kicked in. For me Wafu cuisine has very much been a part of Japanese culture so I’m excited to have the opportunity to be able to share this special piece of Japan with diners in DC. Ganbarimasu!”

“It is very exciting and fulfilling to be able to introduce something from Japan for the first time to our DC customers”, said Daisuke Utagawa, partner at Daikaya Group. “Like ramen, Wafu pasta was something my family was missing in the US. When they found out that us partners decided to go for it, they were very excited!”

Wafu pasta, meaning Japanese-style pasta (dishes) is a widely loved and well-established cuisine in Japan today. The origin of Wafu pasta dates back to 1953 at a tiny restaurant in Tokyo called Kabenoana (Hole in the Wall). At the time there were only three restaurants serving pasta in Tokyo, one of which was at the Imperial Hotel. Kabenoana was serving a plate of pasta at 100 yen, and Imperial Hotel’s was 960 yen. From the start Kabenoana aimed to serve wider audiences. As such, the chef of Kabenoana was open to ideas from his regular clients and started using Japanese ingredients to create new pasta dishes. Now classic Wafu pasta ingredients such as tarako (cod roe) uni (sea urchin), shitake, nori, and dashi emerged as a result of many dialogues and trials between the chef and the customers. In Japan today, there are many Wafu pasta restaurants and the menu items are still evolving incorporating Japanese sensibilities in creating new pasta dishes.

Pizza is also an extremely popular dish in Japan, and there are a wide range of pizza styles and options to choose from. Some pizzerias in Japan have even been known to rival traditional pizzas from Napoli. And some even began to create their own versions with pizza Kaiseki-like service. At Tonari, the team began their journey by working to create a pizza that had a distinctive Japanese flair. The team specifically sought inspiration from Japanese bread, which features a distinct sweet smelling, soft, fluffy, and chewy texture.

To ensure top-notch quality in all of Tonari’s signature pasta and pizza options, Daikaya Group partners called on Yokoyama Seifun, a flour mill in Sapporo which supplies flour to Nishiyama Seimen Co., Ltd. which makes their exclusive custom ramen noodles, to also assist them in developing their Japanese-style pizza dough mix. Yokoyama separates wheat grain into 70 different components, and they are also extremely passionate about bread making, so Jewayni, Utagawa, and Fukushima realized that partnering with Yokoyama would be the perfect collaboration in developing their Japanese pizza dough. During one of the team’s R&D visits to Yokoyama’s test kitchen, one of the pizzas they tested was a pan pizza using 100% Hokkaido flour and rice oil. The flour helped the dough to rise to that fluffy Japanese bread texture they were looking for, and the combination of the pan and the rice oil shortening created a toasty, almost tempura-like crust. When they tasted it, everyone at the test kitchen thought that it was extremely Japanese and distinctive, and they unanimously agreed it would be their official signature pizza dough and that making their pizzas in a pan was the way to go.

Tonari’s menu features an assortment of antipasti including Cold Tofu with housemade silken tofu, anchovy, extra virgin olive oil, shiro shoyu, and scallion, Ricotta with snow peas, edamame, yuzu vinaigrette, and black pepper, Oven Roasted Cabbage with “Tonnato Sauce”, and a Tonari Chopped Salad with romaine lettuce, salami, pepperoncini, and mozzarella – all priced at $7. Signature pasta selections at Tonari include a Napolitan (Spaghetti) with onion, piman, kurobuta sausage, button mushroom, tobasco, ham, ketchup sauce, and pecorino, Uni (Bigoli) with uni, soy, mirin, butter, sake, kombu dashi, and aonori, Natto Bolognese (Pappardelle) with beef, pork, red wine, mirepoix, natto, garlic, tomato, and sake, Tomato (Taliollini) with Wilmer’s tomato sauce, butter, basil, pecorino, and extra virgin olive oil, Shirasu (Tagliatelle) with olive oil, baby sardines, garlic, and red pepper flakes, Kinoko (Pappardelle) Japanese mushrooms with garlic, shoyu, shishitos, negi, garlic, thyme, butter, pecorino, and nori, and Mentaiko (Spaghetti) with cod roe, butter, olive oil, usukuchi, shiso, and nori, just to highlight a few. Traditional and Japanese-centric ingredients are also showcased in the signature pizzas such as the Mentaiko + Corn Pizza, Hawaiian Pizza, Pepperoni Pizza, and a Clam Pizza, to name a few – with all pizzas priced between $14 to $16. Pastry Chef Mary Mendoza crafted a dessert program focused on offering crave-worthy classic Italian desserts including an Espresso Affogato, Chocolate Budino, Panna Cotta with Yamamomo, Grapefruit Granite, and Tiramisu – all priced between $5 to $8. For the beverage program, Beverage Program Director Nalee Grace Kim focuses on offering an assortment of both classic cocktails and “modern-ish” options all priced at $12 each such as the Smoky Manhattan with Rebel Yell Rye, Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro, a Reverse Martini with Dolin Blanc Vermouth, New Amsterdam Vodka, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and a Jasmine White Negroni (available on draft) with New Amsterdam Gin, Dolin Blanc Vermouth, Suze, and Jasmine Extract, to highlight a few – as well as a selection of Italian wines, and a diverse line-up of amaro options. Daikaya Group’s mission is to utilize Tonari to continue to experiment with Wafu pasta and pizza in Washington D.C.

Following multiple in-depth R&D trips to Japan, Daikaya Group partners teamed up with prolific DC-based design guru Brian Miller of edit lab at Streetsense once again to bring the one-of-a-kind design for Tonari to life. The two-level space features 3,600 square feet – 1,800 on the ground floor, and another 1,800 on the 2nd floor, with seating for around 110 total, including seats for 50 in the main dining room and bar area on the ground floor, and horigotatsu seating for about 60 on the 2nd floor.

“Inspired by the contrast of eating pizza alongside the Philospher’s Path and pasta in Kyoto’s train station, we wanted the design to lean as traditionally Japanese as the food leans Italian”, said Brian Miller, Senior Design Director at edit lab at Streetsense. “We stripped out the old acoustic ceiling to uncover the building’s wooden roof structure, and added handmade Japanese wallpaper sheets, horigotatsu seating on the 2nd floor, and a moss garden to slow things down to Kyoto’s pace. The music is the most typical Japanese restaurant soundtrack we could construct – a collection of American jazz.”

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