On Tap Magazine: Himitsu’s Secret Sauce
“Himitsu has racked up more than a dozen national and local awards, nominations and recognitions in their first 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 fino sherry to nori-infused daiquiris. As first-time restaurant owners, Tien and Steiner have been open to growth and change.
“In the first year, I think it was mostly about finding 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 different.”
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.”
Featured photo by Farrah Skeiky.