Del Ray’s KAiZEN Tavern rebranded as Zuki Moon, a Japanese-Filipino gastro bar

On Oct. 4, after nearly a decade at 1909 Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, sushi restaurant KAiZEN Tavern closed and reopened as Zuki Moon.

“Embark on a culinary adventure as we bring you beloved gastro bar food from Japan, and the Philippines,” the restaurant says on its website. “Our vibrant Asian menus and craft cocktails stem from our favorite culinary travels and adventures from the back alley street food stalls to the vibrant and colorful markets.”

Restaurant owner Daniel Wharam opened KAiZEN Tavern in 2014, offering sushi with a blend of Latin, Asian and American cuisine. Wharam and his wife also own Grape & Bean in the city’s Rosemont neighborhood.

The restaurant is named after a fictional girl named Zuki, who grew up in a small Japanese village. The short story is published on the company website, and is included below. Michelle Armstrong works with the couple and came up with the concept and wrote the story.

Once upon a time in a small village in Japan, lived a young girl named Zuki. She was a blend of two cultures, her mother was Filipino and her father was Japanese. Zuki grew up cherishing both her heritage and the love for both countries.

One day, while playing near the magnificent Dragon Gate waterfall, Zuki noticed something unusual. A koi fish, with its colorful scales shimmering under the sunlight, had leaped out of the water and was struggling to return. Without hesitation, Zuki rushed to its aid and gently placed it back into the water. As she did so, mysterious sensation coursed through her.

Years passed, and on Zuki’s 18th birthday, falling on the day of the 3rd moon. Zuki revisited the waterfall to swim. As she stepped into the clear waters, an enchanting transformation occurred. Zuki turned into a magnificent koi fish, her vibrant scales glistening in the moonlight.

With newfound freedom, Zuki embarked on a journey to her mother’s homeland, the Philippines. She swam across the vast ocean and upon arriving in the Philippines, Zuki discovered a land of endless wonders, filled with warm-hearted people, breathtaking landscapes, and most importantly, a diverse and delectable cuisine.

Zuki’s nature allowed her to make countless friends during her visits to the Philippines. They were eager to introduce her to their most beloved eateries, hidden gems tucked away in back alley bars and vibrant markets. Together, they savored the mouthwatering delicacies and flavors of the Philippines. (Hint: Find the characters on our drink coasters.)

Zuki’s favorite foods became a reflection of her cultural heritage. She delighted in the delicate artistry of Sushi, the comforting warmth of Ramen, and the explosion of flavors in Adobo and Sinigang. From savoring street food like Tempura and Yakiniku to enjoying traditional dishes like Pancit and Kare-Kare, Zuki’s taste buds danced with joy.

Each year, as Zuki returned to both her let homelands she carried with her the memories of her friends and the incredible culinary experiences they shared. Inspired by their love and friendship, she dreamed of someday opening a little restaurant that would celebrate the fusion of flavors from both countries.

And so, in honor of Zuki’s mythical journey and her love for the diverse cuisines of Japan and the Philippines, Zuki Moon aims to bring you a taste of her favorite foods. Let us take you on a little culinary adventure…

Zuki Moon and KAiZEN Tavern images via Facebook