Discover this tucked away Japanese ramen and sushi bar.
Situated on a corner block in Washington, DC’s colorful Chinatown neighborhood, Umaya Izykaya DC brings Japanese street food– known for its fresh, heaping doses of ramen, sushi and sashimi– to the city’s busy professionals with discerning tastes.
Izakaya’s are known in Japan as casual spots for afterwork drinking and food. Umaya kicks this casual concept up a notch with fresh ingredients and impeccable presentation.
For a firsthand look at the space, we followed Council on Foundations lobbyist Peter Gordon and education consultant Corey Gordon to a quiet lunch date at the tucked-away restaurant.
On Umaya’s Low-Key Atmosphere
“Umaya is on a less-traveled road in Chinatown, which makes it a bit of a hidden gem,” says Corey. It’s a great little spot, with enough room to avoid overcrowding or too much noise. It could easily be a fun place for an after work happy hour, or a nice romantic evening trying dishes you wouldn’t typically try.”
“I love Chinatown, so the location is great,” says Peter. “I also liked that the restaurant is on a relatively quiet street, which gave it a good vibe as we were sitting in the open air.”
On What to Eat
The couple started their meal with Umaya’s Melting Snow and Jasmine tea infused Hendrick’s gin cocktails.
“I had previously sworn off gin, but [the tea-infused Hendricks’s] drink made me reconsider,” says Corey. I really liked the seared rainbow tataki salad. The fish was so fresh and sliced so thinly that it just melted in your mouth. It was a great start to the meal.”
“I tried both the Melting Snow and the Jasmine Tea Infused Hendricks; I ended up drinking the Melting Snow,” noted Peter. “It was quite refreshing and a drink I would highly recommend. It was mixed perfectly.”
“I loved the Yellowtail Kamachi Collar with Ponzu Dipping Sauce. The presentation was amazing and the fish was perfectly cooked and full of flavor. The housemade sauce from the chef was an excellent addition. The chef mentioned that most restaurants only receive a couple orders of yellowtail each day, so it is often unavailable later in the day– which made the meal even more special.”
Corey & Peter’s Full Lunch Date Menu
Assortment of Robatayaki
Japanese shishito peppers, baby octopus, lamb, chicken with scallion, chicken hearts, chicken gizzard, beef tongue) and dipping sauces: spicy mayo, Sesame mustard, Tomato based sauce
Yellowtail Kamachi Collar With Ponzu Dipping Sauce
One of the more advanced dishes that cater to izakaya fanatics
Seared Rainbow Tataki Salad
Hand-seared tuna, salmon and yellowtail with mixed Asian salad and a citrus ponzu salad)
Poke Salad Bowl
Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, aji, flounder, white tuna, tobiko and seaweed on top
Japanese Curry with Chicken Karaage Ramen
Pork Belly Ramen
Sake, Cointreau, lemon juice and raspberry liqueur
Jasmine tea infused Hendricks
On the Immersive Experience & Service
“The service was probably the best part of the experience,” says Corey. “I felt like we were learning as we ate. The chef mentioned a few tips and tricks that made the food even more tasty, and the servers always checked to make sure we were satisfied. If you’re looking for a more personalized experience, try sitting by the grill or sushi.”
“I can tell Umaya takes great pride in their food and treats it like art. They seemed genuinely invested in our experience and went above and beyond to be sure we enjoyed ourselves and the food. The quality of the fish was excellent, and the presentation took it to the next level.”
Photography by David Fant