Is H Street ready for vegan, kosher sushi? The Noridojo one-night pop-up restaurant was testing the waters on Dec. 4, operating out of the newly kosher-certified pan-Asian vegan restaurant Pow Pow. They served around 70 people over the night’s two seatings, Chef Margeaux Riccio said.
In Japanese, “sushi” refers to the way the rice is prepared for the dish. So although sushi is associated with raw fish, it can contain vegetables or egg instead. Pow Pow went completely vegan this year. Not long after, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld who runs DC Kosher, which provides kosher supervision and certification in the Washington area, approached Riccio to see if she wanted certification. Pow Pow only had to change two products to be certified, Riccio said, the fortune cookies and kombucha, or fermented tea.
During the first seating of the night, the 35-seat restaurant was packed with excited patrons. Many said they already were fans of Pow Pow and had heard about the event over social media.
Over two hours, they were served six vegan interpretations of sushi and Japanese dishes, along with a cocktail
and a dessert.
While there already is vegetarian sushi, including tamago (egg), kappa (cucumber) and inarizushi (sushi rice in fried tofu), these dishes went beyond them to mimic the flavors and textures of non-vegan dishes while using plant-based ingredients.
“The goal is to make [the dish] what it’s meant to taste like,” Riccio said, “The flavor profiles of [the dishes] are the same [as the original.]”
In this way, the dishes might also appeal to people who aren’t vegan. Riccio worked with chef John Yamashita of nearby Sticky Rice sushi restaurant to create the night’s menu.
Dishes included a sushi roll called “Pretty Pumpkin,” which consisted of pink soy wrapper with Japanese pumpkin, cashews, yuzu beet and cashew mozzarella; a trio of vegan interpretations of a spicy tuna roll, California roll and eel roll served together called “the O.G.s”; a roll called “the group hug” with purple rice, cashew mozzarella, and avocado “fried like a big warm hug,” according to the menu; and another roll called “The Angry Jakku,” which had pineapple kimchi, avocado and cilantro, and was topped with Korean barbeque jackfruit and aji sauce.
Even the drinks were vegan — the Bee’s Knees, served with agave syrup instead of honey, and a New York Sour, made with aquafaba, a replacement for egg whites.
The food came out erratically and plates were shared, which brought strangers together to talk over the meal.
Karl Kriemelmeyer, who described himself as “mostly vegetarian,” was sharing a plate with Katarzyna Sobieraj, a “vegetarian-vegan.” Kriemelmeyer proclaimed the food “really tasty.”
Sobieraj said she loved two of the dishes in particular. “I really enjoyed the beets and the crunch” of the Pretty Pumpkin,” she said, adding that she doesn’t normally eat sushi, since there aren’t a lot of option for her. “It’s usually just vegetables.”
Nearby, Shayna Fertig and Arzinda Jalil were sharing a plate.
“I’ve had vegetable sushi but never anything as inventive as this, said Fertig, who is a vegan.
Both Fertig and Jalil said the Warm Hug and the tori karaage were their favorite dishes. Neither was sure whether the pop-up was just a one-time thing.
It isn’t, according to Margeaux. She and owner Shaun Sharkey are looking to open up Noridojo as a permanent fixture on H Street not too far from Pow Pow. They’re just keeping their eye out for the right location, she said.
If line almost out the door for the second seating was any indication, vegan kosher sushi may become a thing.