Get the opening riff of “Immigrant Song” out of your head. Zeppelin, D.C.’s newest sushi, yakitori and cocktail bar, isn’t a reference to your chill uncle’s favorite band. Instead, the restaurant (which has taken over the old Shaw Bijou space) is both modeled after the golden age of real, live zeppelins and works as a love letter to Japan. The mixture creates a restaurant that feels vintage (the old Godzilla posters, the intricate laser cut bar) and modern (the clean lines, the moody lighting) at the same time. If this doesn’t become the District’s new go-to first date restaurant, I’ll be shocked.
Thankfully, Zeppelin is more than a pretty face. Their cocktail menu is filled with delicious concoctions worth fighting for a seat at the bar. Made with mezcal, Yuzu Kosho, plum, passionfruit, lime and a dusting of sancho arbol salt that will clear your sinuses, The Heartbreaker is an absolute standout. It has just the right amount of smoke, spice and sweet. After downing one (or two) of those, make your way over to the highball menu where you’ll find a list of cocktails that are produced by a specially designed highball machine that is guaranteed to pour a perfectly carbonated highball every time. The result is something wildly refreshing and terribly sneaky. These drinks are going to get you in trouble.
After downing enough highballs, you’re going to need something to soak up that booze. Luckily, their yakitori menu is jam packed with options. The asparagus wrapped in bacon is the platonic bar food, as is the silky pork skewer, but the surprise favorite was the vegetable and shrimp tempura, with its wining combination of buttery vegetables and delicately fried shrimp.
No visit to Zeppelin should be complete without grabbing an order of sushi. With chef Minoru Ogawa (Sushi Capitol, Sushi Ogawa) behind the omakase counter, you know you’r in good hands when it comes to nigiri, maki or whatever else your heart desires. If you really want to go all in on the sushi, the best way to get a sample of Zeppelin’s fish (which is sourced from Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market) is by grabbing a reservation at the omakase counter and letting them take the wheel.
Between the cocktails, the yakitori and the sushi, Zeppelin is giving you all of the options you need to drink and eat (and drink again) well into the night. Hop from the bar, to the dining room to the karaoke space upstairs and you can enjoy a wild Saturday night without ever leaving the restaurant.
Zeppelin is located at 1554 9th Street NW.