On Tap Winter 2018

ON TAP | WINTER 2018 | www.ontaponline.com 42 Himitsu has racked up more than a dozen national and local awards, nominations and recognitions in their rst year of business, from a James Beard nomination and a spot- on Bon Appetit ’s Best New Restaurants list to multiple 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 nods for co-owners Carlie Steiner and Chef Kevin Tien. All of it has left many wondering: what’s the secret sauce? If you ask Steiner and Tien, they’ll tell you that it might literally be sauce. “I’d say it’s probably about 80 percent Kevin’s sauce, and 20 percent everything else we do,” Steiner says with a laugh. “Really though.” Whether it’s a sharp vinaigrette on a crudo or a rich XO cream on a “gnocchi,” Tien is constantly hearing customers rave about his sauce. “We say the sauce is boss here,”he explains. “I’m a sauce guy, I guess.” Of course, that’s just the sauce on the plate. The backbone of the 24-seat restaurant in Petworth is the inventive, Japanese-inspired food from Tien and Steiner’s esoteric yet approachable beverage menu that jumps from no sherry to nori-infused daiquiris. As rst-time restaurant owners, Tien and Steiner have been open to growth and change. “In the rst year, I think it was mostly about nding who we are as a restaurant and then really solidifying that identity,” Tien says. For instance, Tien’s menu used to feature nigiri and maki rolls, but he quickly dropped those in favor of more unusual crudo creations. “There’s a lot of really good sushi restaurants in DC,” he says. “We should really just focus on ourselves and how we’re going to be di erent.” Steiner sees the changes they’ve made as drastic, but she takes heart in the feedback she’s received from regular diners who make up about 50 percent of the restaurant’s clientele. “A lot of them say while we have grown and perhaps gotten better throughout the year, they feel like our integrity is the same. They feel like it’s still been us from day one. It helps that we’re kind of a bunch of weirdos,” Steiner says of their quirky characters and unexpected pairings. “We’re not an American restaurant; we’re not just an Asian restaurant,” Tien adds. “This restaurant is Carlie’s personality; it’s my personality.” To focus on making food that expressed that personality, Tien removed header labels from his menu to avoid pigeonholing dishes into expected categories. As a result, he often turns out plates that may sound uninspiring on the surface, but end up blowing diners away, like humble charred carrots or a wedge salad. “Pro tip: if you would never order this in another restaurant, you should order it at our restaurant,”Tien says. When the standouts get a little too popular – like the karaage fried chicken – Tien tends to take them o the menu. “I don’t want our restaurant to be known for one single item. I want our restaurant to be known for multiple items, and for overall really awesome food [and] really awesome beverages. Someone made a missing yer for the fried chicken and hung it around the “Pro tip: if you would never order this in another restaurant, you should order it at our restaurant.” Himitsu's Secret Sauce By Lani Furbank Himitsu’s Carlie Steiner and Kevin Tien Photos: Farrah Skeiky Himitsu’s Duck Duck Mousse and“Gnocchi”