The Washington Post

Perry’s restaurant shifts from West to East

No more crab cakes or roast chicken at Perry’s. Over the weekend, the Adams Morgan restaurant with the popular rooftop quietly changed its allegiance from America to Japan.

“We’re going back to where we started,” says owner Saied Azali. Veteran food observers might recall that Perry’s was born as an izakaya in 1984; in the early 1990s, as interest in fusion food developed, the second-floor dining room morphed into more of a Western destination.

Perry's is going back to its Japanese origins. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post) Perry's is going back to its Japanese origins. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)

Fresh competition in the city prompted the recent switch. “I don’t want to be the same as everybody else.” Good Japanese restaurants, Azali points out, are in short supply.

The restaurateur has been interested in returning Perry's to its roots for years. Holding him back was a lack of talent. Now, he’s got it: His new staff includes head chef Hironobu Higashijima, whose credits include Makoto and Kushi in Washington, and sushi chef Tetsuya Nakata, formerly of Raku in Bethesda. Both men also worked at the late Hisago in Georgetown. Their menu features crab spring rolls, skewered grill meats, rice bowls, tempura and noodle dishes.

The restaurant’s name stays. Perry’s, after all, refers to Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858), the U.S. Navy officer credited with opening Japan to the larger world. (Little-known fact: Before Azali shifted gears, Carole Greenwood, the original chef at Buck’s Fishing & Camping, helmed the Perry’s kitchen for several months this spring.)

Azali is in the process of replacing kitchen equipment and plans to install a new cocktail and sushi bar after New Year’s Eve. He has no intention of doing away with Perry’s long-running drag brunch. “I’m not going to mess with something that’s going so strong.”

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.



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