Inside Shōtō, a Japanese Zen masterpiece rising downtown tonight

To feel – rather, feel – the thoughtful thought behind every inch of Shōtō, stroll straight into its immaculate wood-framed dining room and spa-like restroom. Here, custom oil diffusers release a unique black tea scent, crafted by luxury fragrance brand Le Labo to swirl exclusively in Shōtō’s stone-lined restrooms.

This invisible touch is just a droplet in a sea of ​​detail that makes Midtown Center’s modern Japanese izakaya unlike anything DC has seen before (1100 15th Street NW). The global hotel group behind the 155-seater stunner, which debuts for dinner service at 5pm tonight, knows what it’s doing. Shōtō is the newest member of London restaurateur Arjun Waney’s collective of brands that includes Zuma, an upmarket sushi and izakaya concept with 18 locations around the world. The highly anticipated sibling three years in the making brings to downtown DC a symmetrically pleasing Japanese robata sushi counter, bar and grill that cooks an array of fish, meats, kebabs, poultry and produce on pressed Japanese white oak (scroll down for a first look at its finalized menu).

The man behind this zen masterpiece is Tokyo-based Studio Glit’s Noriyoshi Muramatsu, a world-renowned restaurant designer who’s also responsible for Zuma’s luxurious looks (his Sin City Cosmopolitan location was appointed Las Vegas EaterDesign of the year 2017). Shōtō marks the discerning designer’s first project in DC

A dozen ivy-framed electric fireplace corners draw attention to one wall in the elegant dining room.
Rey Lopez for Shoto

“We built this project specifically for DC It’s unique and there’s only one,” says managing partner Arman Naqi, a DC native who has spent the past eight years in Miami working for the company.

Shōtō’s smoky grilling technique inspires perhaps the greatest show in museum-quality dining. A massive UFO-like formation hovering above diners is made of lava rock quarried from an active volcano in Japan. The stones have been drilled into orange-sized pieces, painstakingly threaded by hand, and now hang in a perfect circular formation from the 25-foot ceiling. At sunset, the backlit, floating sculpture offers seated diners a dazzling spectacle of shadows on the floor while a DJ spins “pulsing” music nearby on the weekends.

The dramatic black centerpiece joins an array of sets also purchased, assembled and/or salvaged in Japan that have made the amazing 7,000 mile journey to DC in one piece.

Customers have a tangible idea of ​​what’s in store as soon as they open the door. The long, slender handle is a tan branch that once belonged to a tree growing in an ancient Japanese forest, hand-picked by Muramatsu just for Shōtō. Illuminated bottles of Japanese whiskey greet guests at the entrance, presented as precious artifacts behind gold metal grilles. Shōtō is shooting to have one of the largest selections of Japanese whiskey in DC, if not the East Coast. For now, you have 40 rare types to choose from with the goal of reaching 100 as supply restrictions ease.

Japanese whiskey bottles presented in boxes

Japanese whiskeys greet guests upon entering.
Rey Lopez for Shoto

Shōtō, which means “short sword” in Japanese, speaks to “our commitment to accuracy and precision,” says Naqi – from his skills in cutting raw fish to every design element that seems to have a place and a place. goal. The sushi counter, for example, gives diners a direct vantage point to watch the meticulous knife work on amberjack, O toro fatty tuna, A5 wagyu and other delicacies from Japan. Executive sushi chef Kwang Kim and executive chef Alessio Conti, both restaurant group veterans, are opening with omakase menus (from $95 per person) and a la carte options.

A closer look at the textured tile backsplash of their open kitchen reveals another artistic achievement. Thin vertical rows of curved tiles are actually moldings of Japanese bamboo, each hand molded and glazed green. Clay plates neatly stacked on wooden shelves also tell a story, handcrafted by a Japanese artist using a wood-fired ash technique.

A huge open kitchen and a sushi counter lined with chairs

Shotō’s open kitchen.
Rey Lopez for Shoto

The walls and ceiling themselves are a mathematical feat, made up of square wooden boxes that cast a grid-like look around the room. Other elements are as functional as they are fabulous to look at.

Century-old parts of a working aqueduct system in rural Japan are reincarnated as flowerpots to hold Japan’s beloved cherry blossoms. Rows of mouth-blown glass bowls, designed to look like traditional Japanese tea kettles, rest on shelves above the bar. Soon they will be filled with Japanese spirits, sake and shochu infused with fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables. “Every day, week and month there will be different infusions for our customers to try,” says Naqi.

The glass orbs are interspersed with gigantic barrels of sake from Japanese breweries. Now the empty, flexible containers sit like floating ivory works of art at the bar, where floor-to-ceiling windows help create an “exposure factor” from the street, says Naqi. A hand-carved ice station joins a bonsai tree behind the bar, where signature cocktails are made with only Japanese spirits (vodka, gin, whiskey, sake, sparkling sake).

A wine and sake cellar that holds up to 1,500 bottles takes up an entire wall, and patrons can watch sommeliers climb a ladder to retrieve their picks. “It adds to the theatricality,” says Naqi.

A private dining area aft brings DC a 45-seat long rectangular table under a corrugated red fabric ceiling and can accommodate additional seating if needed. Diners in the hidden room can catch a glimpse of the action through the glass cellar.

“There is no bad place in the restaurant. No matter where you sit, you discover all facets,” says Naqi.

Shōtō joins Philotimo, chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s Greek centerpiece that opened in the same Midtown Center complex last month.

A spectacular black lava stone sculpture hangs in the middle of a dining room

Shōtō opens for dinner service to begin.
Rey Lopez for Shoto

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