Brothers and Sisters | The Line Hotel
Opened December 2017
Who made the first move? Sydell Group first approached me as far back as 2012 to gauge my interest. They had a guy that worked for them named Tanner Campbell; to me he was kind of their talent scout, and he was a big fan of Toki Underground and saw potential in me that I hadn’t even seen in myself. Toki had only been open for about a year and I hadn’t even started or thought of the concept of Maketto.
What was attractive about the idea of a hotel restaurant? The stability of business is always there when you are working with a hotel. Especially a great company like the Sydell Group. Being a small-business owner is always tough, and you are always one natural disaster away from losing everything. They gave me almost complete creative freedom and really let me be myself 100 percent of the time.
How did Brothers and Sisters’ creation differ from your other concepts? Brothers and Sisters was an opportunity for me to do a “non-Asian” restaurant. We had to think about all different hotel guests, from the corporate traveler, to the international traveler, to the local staycation, and to the fans of my restaurants. It was fun to balance what people love about my restaurants with trying to create a restaurant for groups I normally would not cook for.
How did you tailor it for hotel guests? Sydell group didn’t ask for much except to have my version of a burger and a nice Caesar salad.
What does your presence do for the hotel brand, and vice versa: how does the hotel anchor you/your restaurant concept? I think that I help continue the legacy of the Line brand for Sydell Group, who first launched with Roy Choi. I think that he really turned the hotel industry upside down; honestly the first Line did that more successfully than any other hotel brand in the United States. I think that I bridge the gap of that original concept and where the Line brand might go in the future. For me, this cements my legacy in Washington, D.C., as more than just the young noodle guy that founded Toki Underground.
What do you most love about this restaurant concept in particular? I love the concept Brothers and Sisters because it is honestly the hardest thing I have ever done. I am cooking food way out of my comfort zone. We are executing 24-hour service (we provide the room service). Brothers and Sisters employs almost 100 people from all types of unique backgrounds and cultures. It has really been an amazing journey. I am so proud of my team and blessed that Sydell Group trusts me.
What’s the biggest challenge running this restaurant inside a hotel? The hotel industry is so competitive, so you really only have one chance to make a loyal customer. Even though we are foremost our own restaurant, we are essential to the success of the overall hotel. We try to never forget that an experience at our restaurant will determine whether or not a guest comes back to Line DC ever.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from opening this concept? We felt pretty prepared when we opened this place, but you are never prepared enough. And like all restaurant openings, it is never what you planned—you constantly have to be flexible and adjust to guest feedback. Since this wasn’t a typical restaurant for me, especially for the food, we have constantly worked on evolving to make sure the guests have a great experience. For example, when we first opened, all of our menus opened from right to left like you would find when you traveled to Asian countries. Our concept is this idea of experiencing American food through the lens of a Japanese person or Taiwanese person in their native country. It was really hard to explain, and it really threw guests off. Function over design won at the end of the day on that one.
What’s your advice to other restaurateurs considering a hotel location? Do it!