Chefs Jonah Kim and Mike Isabella Set to Open Yona

Chefs Jonah Kim and Mike Isabella will open Yona, a Japanese/Korean noodle bar and small plates restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, on November 30. The restaurant will launch with lunch and begin serving dinner on December 4. Reservations for both are available now. Kim’s first solo concept is located in a 1,500-square-foot, 50-seat space at 4000 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood. Located in the same building as Kapnos Taverna and Pepita, Yona is the third Mike Isabella Concepts restaurant to open in the neighborhood, and Yona is Isabella's first venture as purely a business partner.

“I’ve had a lot of fun cooking our ramen styles and flavors,” Kim says. “My approach at Yona is thoughtful, modern cooking while staying true to time-honored flavors and techniques. And I think people are going to be surprised by the small plates, which really gave me an opportunity to blend some Korean flavors with traditional Japanese dishes.” 

Yona is a full-service, casual restaurant open daily serving lunch and dinner. The menu features both traditional and more inventive takes on ramen, including Kim's tonkotsu-shoyu tare broth, and a vegetarian ramen that was the surprise hit at the public pop-up previews hosted at Isabella’s G earlier this year. Other soups include Kim’s indulgent Miso Porky ramen and bowls of chilled soba with gochujang chili paste, tuna, kimchi, and Fuji apple. 

The dinner menu offers small plates that reflect both the chef's Korean heritage and his Japanese culinary training; steamed pork jowl buns, crispy Brussels sprouts with fermented chili-yuzu sauce, Korean-style beef tartare, steamed firm tofu and dry-fried chicken wings with aged rice vinegar and maltose are just a few examples. The lunch menu focuses on quick-serve items for on-the-go professionals, including donburi rice bowls in addition to ramen. 

Mike Isabella Concepts beverage director Taha Ismail takes the lead on liquid offerings, which feature a tightly edited selection of cocktails and wine. The beer list includes Japanese brews, which have been chosen specifically to pair with the restaurant’s rich broths. The beverage menu also features a list of sakes in multiple styles and a handful of fine Japanese whiskeys. 

“Yona is going to be more than just a way for Jonah to show off his mastery of Japanese and Korean flavors,” Isabella says. “We are creating a concept unlike anything in Northern Virginia, it’s cool and sophisticated, but also serves high-quality food in a casual environment, and offers it at a value. Ramen may be a humble dish, but it’s one that pays back the care and attention to detail a great chef can put into it.”

Natalie Park Design Studio worked closely with Kim on Yona’s interior. The look draws its primary influence from Japanese minimalism, with natural cedar millwork and furniture nodding to Korean and Japanese wood joinery. The woodwork provides a warm contrast to the white tiled open kitchen and its eight-seat bar. A custom neon light fixture and pixelated mosaic wall tiles in the shape of whales bring an element of whimsy, adding to the relaxed, casual atmosphere. Yona’s Douglas-fir wooden façade is a product of the Shou Sugi Ban method, a traditional Japanese way of charring wood that naturally protects it against the elements, giving a bold external frame to the restrained interior.

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