(Takeshi Nishikawa, a sous chef at Volt, will become the chef at New Heights in the new year.)

Tanaka is leaving the contemorary American restaurant in Woodley Park to work on an establishment of his own, expected to open in spring 2013, says Kavita Singh, who co-owns New Heights with her husband Umbi.

A native of Suzuka, Japan, the 26-year-old Nishikawa is no stranger to the Washington dining scene. Previously, he worked as a saucier and meat cook at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria and as garde manger, responsible for cold dishes, at the late Maestro in Tysons Corner. New Heights will be his first shot as top toque.

Nishikawa was one of about 50 applicants for the opening, and one of a dozen who prepared a tasting menu for the owners. “We were looking for a fresh approach to cooking,” says Kavita Singh. What impressed her most about Nishikawa’s plates was his focus on something other than just the centerpiece. “Every single element was so thoughtful,” recalls the restaurateur.

Among the hire’s successes: pan-roasted scallops presented with an airy parsnip soup and brussels sprouts brightened with lemon confit, a main course destined for the new chef’s debut menu.

Nishikawa starts Jan. 12. He plans to stay at Volt to the very end of 2012. A trouper, he’s helping out with New Year’s Eve there.