More on Momiji, the New Japanese Restaurant from the Owner of Umi, Kushibar

Details on the first Capitol Hill project from Belltown restaurateur Steven Han and partners.

By Jessica Voelker June 30, 2011

Tablemaking in progress at Momiji, a traditional Japanese restaurant opening this fall on Capitol Hill.

Photo: Momiji via Facebook

Update from a Momiji rep 08/17: “Cody Burns will be general manager of Momiji and coordinating the sake and wine list.
Will Doherty is the…bartender coming over from Umi.”

Over the past few months CHS Blog and Eater Seattle have brought us news of Momiji, a new Japanese restaurant from the people behind Umi Sake House and Kushibar that is currently under construction at 1522 12th Avenue on Capitol Hill.

I called up owner Steven Han to learn more. Here’s what he told me:

Han was inspired by the culinary tradition of Kyoto, a city well-known for its multi-course meals presented in garden courtyards by servers wearing traditional kimono. “When you go to Kyoto,” Han said, “there’s a higher-end style, and ingredients are fresh.” Momiji’s take on this centuries-old tradition will be somewhat less formal—servers will not wear kimono, for instance. But at Momiji he hopes to capture a similar spirit using local ingredients and focusing on fresh fish and vegetables. Running the kitchen will be chef Chris Vilayphanh, head chef at Umi. Han says Vilayphanh will split his time between the two restaurants until Momiji hits its stride. The kitchen staff will be made up of many Umi and Kushibar alums plus “other people I’ve wanted to hire for a while.”

As Eater originally reported, Han enlisted Whidbey Island woodworker Craig Yamamoto to design the space; it will center around a garden courtyard with a Japanese tile roof. The garden will be encased with glass doors that can be opened in warm weather. Han believes the restaurant will be so elegantly designed that people will walk by and assume Momiji offers a formal experience only, but in fact there will be “something for everyone.” At the sushi bar, equipped with its own hood and grill, ingredients will be stored under the counter as opposed to above. The idea is to encourage one-on-one conversations between the sushi chefs and the customers.

A full bar with four tables will be the place for happy hour or a casual cocktail. Umi general manager (and partner) Cody Burns will move over to Momiji to return to what Han says is his true love: bartending. Burns will be in charge of the program and bar staff.

To Han, the answer to the question “Why Capitol Hill, why now?” was so obvious that he scoffed at it. “Capitol Hill is booming,” he said. So when the Dawson Plumbing building went up for sale, Han took out a loan and bought it. “I think there’s nothing up there like Momiji,” said Han. “It’s something that doesn’t really exist here.”

Han hopes to open Momiji in late September. Follow the restaurant on Facebook updates on its progress.

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