The renovation of Capitol Hill’s high-end Japanese kaiseki restaurant went even smoother than chef/owner Shota Nakajima hoped, and less than a month after Naka closed, it’s relaunching today at 5 p.m. as Adana, a more casual, homier, more affordable showcase for Nakajima’s artistic Asian cuisine.
In the lounge, the bar top has been replaced with reclaimed wood and topped by a roof, while lights have been added at each seat. A large metal wire wall between the lounge and dining room has also been swapped out for a small drywall, which Nakajima said feels more simple and Japanese. As if he weren’t busy enough, the chef is also still working on a few oil paintings for the lounge. “I find time somehow,” he said.
The lounge is available to walk-ins today, while the dining room is offering only limited reservations at this point. Nakajima said he learned his lesson from taking on too much too quickly at Naka — not an uncommon problem, perhaps, for a young, first-time restaurateur. “We went all out from the beginning, which was fun, but sometimes the food and service weren’t everything I wanted them to be,” he said. “This time we’ll make sure everything’s a little better.”
Adana held a few days of soft openings last week, during which Nakajima solicited feedback from friends, family, and industry members. That had an immediate effect on the menu, which was originally intended to be prix fixe only with three customizable courses for $37. “A good friend of ours said, ‘Maybe you should do something like Altura, where you have your coursed things but there are a la carte options so people don’t get intimidated,’” Nakajima recalled. The prix fixe meal will still be a better deal, but dishes will also be available to purchase individually.
Check out the official website for menus, including pickled king salmon and Japanese eggplant in the dining room and braised oxtail bites at the bar. These menus are meant to represent a more comforting take on Japanese fare that still calls back to Naka’s elegant platings. Each will likely run through the end of March, at which point Nakajima plans to change at least 50 percent of the menu monthly, shifting with the seasons and ensuring regulars have good reason to return frequently and experience new flavors at his new, lower prices.
Nakajima is excited to get back in the kitchen with a newfound understanding of what it might take to succeed in his location. At Naka, he said, “I learned a lot, everything was a learning curve. That was a good experience, and I’m glad I got to do that, but I’m glad I have a second chance with my partners to do something like this.”