For those who were hoping that former Pabu chef Jonah Kim would set his next venture in Baltimore, you might have to program your GPS.
The former Pabu chef announced today that he and celebrity chef Mike Isabella (a former Top Chef contestant and owner of Graffiato and several other D.C.-VA hotspots) are partnering to open Yona, a Japanese noodle bar and small-plates place in Ballston, VA.
The opening is tentatively set for spring 2015.
Though Kim, a Butchers Hill resident, said he and Isabella initially looked in Baltimore, those plans didn’t pan out.
That being said, the new plans for a ramen restaurant sound promising, and we are happy to follow this talented chef wherever he lands.
Yona (both the Korean and Japanese pronunciation of Kim’s name) will feature lunch and dinner service.
“Lunch will focus on great takeout options,” says Kim, who just returned from a family vacation and an inspiration trip to Korea. “In the evening, we will create more of a dining experience with small plates that a lot of people in Baltimore are familiar with from when I was at Pabu—I love that style of dining where it’s all in front of you and you can share.”
While Kim’s fried chicken recipe perfected at Pabu will appear on Yona’s menu, other specialties will include donburi bowls, tonkotsu ramen, and small plates such as steamed duck buns and kimchi.
“The food will be ramen, but also with Asian-influenced small plates from Korean to Japanese,” says the native of Korea. “Noodles are the Asian pasta. They are comfortable and very approachable. When you think of ramen or pho or any other kind of noodle dish, the warmth of the broth steaming in your face, the noodles that you are slurping, it’s something that’s really fun. And from a consumer standpoint, the price point works.”
A noodle bar also offers the chef a chance to get back to his roots. “It’s just something that a lot of Asian chefs go back to,” Kim explains. “It’s what we like, and what we grew up eating, and this pays an homage to our culture.”
Kim and Isabella first became friends several years back while doing charity events in Washington, D.C. “We knew each other on a professional level,” says Kim, “and I had done a couple of events at Graffiato. The professional relationship grew into a personal relationship.”
Kim is thrilled with his new business partner. “Mike has been amazing to work with,” says Kim. “He’s been nothing but supportive and he has no ego. He told me, ‘This place is going to be 98-percent you and two-percent me, and that two percent is going to be me supporting you.'” Kim is hoping that he and Isabella will partner on other projects, as well, and says a restaurant in the Baltimore area is “TBD.”
We’ll slurp to that.