When you walk into gi-jin, your first words just might be “It was worth the wait.”
The Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group’s highly anticipated Japanese hand roll and gin bar at 208 6th Street opens Downtown on April 6 and is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
A lot of thought and detail went into the concept, which has been in development since 2016.
The small space has seating for 28 at five tables and a long bar. You can snag a two-hour spot through their online reservation system (there is no phone at gi-jin). Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Upon arrival, a team member will take you to your seat and explain the menu, which boasts starters like miso soup and edamame and at least a dozen different hand roll and sashimi options.
Chefs Michael Taylor, Ryan Hart and Alex Melon will serve cold plates, including poke with ahi tuna, smashed avocado, seaweed, serrano pepper and yuzu foam. Warm plates range from spicy rice cakes to New York Strip. The menu, which will change based on the season and the availability of fresh ingredients, also includes a variety of Japanese gin, whiskey and sake curated by John Wabeck, a wine and spirits expert.
You can’t get takeout from gi-jin (at least not yet). DeShantz and his team are focused on the in-person dining experience.
Whether you arrive in jeans or something formal, you’ll feel comfortable in the relaxed restaurant, which boasts a dragon mural by artist Jeremy Raymer and a back wall that looks like a forest.
There are currently three DeShantz eateries that are open: Poulet Bleu, Coop de Ville and täkō. Butcher and the Rye, Meat & Potatoes and Fish nor Fowl will open later this year, as will a second täkō location in East Liberty’s Bakery Square development.
Casey Henderlong, director of events and public relations for the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, says they don’t want to rush into opening all of the hot spots, which each have their own unique vibe.
“A big problem facing the restaurant industry is trying to find staff, from front-of-the-house to culinary teams,” Henderlong says. “We don’t want to compromise the guest experience.”