20 Feb 2024


ReikiNa: More than a tasting menu

Celeriac with dill and yuzu curd. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

When a friend suggested I attend a ReikiNa meal, I wasn’t sure what to expect. This concept, they assured me, was different: part fine dining, courtesy of Pineapple and Pearls alum Thomas Stacy and part mystery — a ten-course meal served at an undisclosed Capitol Hill location. I DMed the account on Instagram (@ReikinaDC) and right away I got a message with instructions, asking me to pick a date. A subsequent message featured what to expect to be served during my visit, and a final message told me to look for the blue light shining outside the place. Feeling daring, mysterious and hungry, I was ready for my dinner this past Saturday, February 17.

The space happens to be a versatile and homey one , dominated by a solid, custom-built white oak table Thomas brought to DC from Houston, where he ran a previous iteration of ReikiNa. The table is perfect for those of us who are a little on the klutzy end of things, because no matter how much you shift or move, it’s not going anywhere. Just don’t bang it with your fist, because the protective glass that covers it will make quite a ruckus. A piano anchors the eastern wall, and a neon ReikiNa logo fills the room with cool light. We were told that the name means “divine snacks” in Japanese, and the name lived up to its promise. Thomas is particularly fond of Japanese food, which informed his decision to work at Uchi, an upscale restaurant in Houston. He says he enjoys “the unique flavors to the cuisine. and the vast range of refinement.”

Lobster and beef tallow gunkan. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

The fine dining part most of you can probably imagine: a gifted chef sharing a menu that showcases both their ability and their creativity, sometimes developed around a theme and sometimes just as an exercise in storytelling through food. This part is ably fulfilled by Thomas and his two-person staff: perfectly cooked lobster; wagyu short rib so tender and juicy you can cut it with a fork; pillowy dinner rolls served with a surprisingly sweet nori butter; a jalapeño crudo so delightful, I’m still meditating on the balance of spice and flavor–– so much flavor packed into a welcoming morsel. The celery root vegetable dish was so creative and full of color, we wanted to see more veggies get the Thomas treatment. And a soup dumpling hiding a cache of French onion soup? Genius!

Not everything was perfect. A less-than-crispy shrimp tempura was nevertheless tasty, though its absence may have let the risotto dish it accompanied shine better. The dessert, while delicious, could have benefited from a little editing, as there were too many flavors trying to get my attention on the plate. They can’t all be winners and I am not a professional food critic, but most of the dishes were absolute hits.

The ReikiNa logo lighting up the space. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

A couple of components set this experience apart: Thomas begins the service with a meditation on gratitude. He mentioned that, due to the space constraints, he wanted to have another way to prepare his guests for the feast to come. The current ReikiNa is petite and there is no green room-type area where guests can prepare for the experience. The meditation, then, is a centering practice, where us diners became aware of our body and our consumption of the food. It was also a welcome respite and a treat to just close our eyes and remember to breathe.

The other unexpected joy? Getting to know the people around the table. Chatting and sharing beautiful food with people is the very essence of community, and getting to know neighbors and exchanging impressions was very special. And then, when the dessert course was served, Thomas sang and played the piano, showing that he’s a man of many talents. It was an unforgettable night and we would gladly do it all over again.

In order to book a dinner at ReikiNa, you should follow them on Instagram and send a direct message. The 10-course dinner is a suggested donation of $180 per person and you can pay via Venmo or credit.

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