Grammy-Nominated Rapper Joins Ownership Group Behind H Street Ramen Shop

This is article originally appeared on CoStar.

Grammy-nominated rapper Pusha T is joining an ownership group that includes a pair of D.C. nightclub veterans and two NBA players that is set to open a new ramen and cocktail bar on H Street in Northeast Washington, the latest celebrity to break into the local restaurant scene.

The hip hop star and current president of Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label revealed this week he is part of the group behind Kitsuen, a 2,000-square-foot restaurant and late night hookah lounge that is scheduled to open on New Year's Eve at 1362 H St. NE.

News of Pusha T's involvement quickly circulated on social media and local news outlets, giving instant clout to a restaurant that had suffered from construction delays.

That's the type of recognition that a well-known name can bring to a project, said Wes Neal of Recon CRE, who represented ownership in the Kitsuen lease back in 2018. Like Washington Redskins tight end and former University of Maryland star Vernon Davis' involvement in fast casual Indian restaurant Rasa, Pusha T's involvement provides street cred and attaches a high profile name to a project that will help it stand out against the wealth of ramen restaurants that have opened in the city in the last several years.

"I think they [celebrities] provide instant cache for something that would otherwise need PR," Neal said. "So now they partner, and all their followers, with one twitter or one Instagram post, there's probably going to be lines around the block."

The Kitsuen ownership group also includes Wayne Johnson and Tony Perry, business partners and the pair behind D.C. clubs Saint Yves and Abigail, as well as brothers and former DeMatha stars Jerami and Jerian Grant. Jerami is on the Denver Nuggets, while Jerian currently plays for the Washington Wizards' G League affiliate, the Capital City Go Go. The group also includes Las Vegas entrepreneur Kyle Eubanks.

LaMean Koroma of Cresa, who represented the Kitsuen group in the lease, said it took less than 30 days for the team to sign the original lease after the group experienced a "eureka moment."

“I had sent them a list of properties, and when we were thinking of places that were up and coming, that H Street corridor just made too much sense."

"How Pusha T got involved, there was a little bit of a hiccup with the general contractor," Koroma said. "And there was sort of time to refresh and regroup, and as part of the regroup Pusha T, who has known Wayne and Tony for years just by hosting events and doing concerts together, it just made a lot of sense for him to come in. And from a strategic standpoint, what he could add, as you can see."

Koroma noted a celebrity attaching itself to a restaurant or entertainment venture in the nation's capital gets considerably more play than in New York or LA, where it's far more common for athletes, actors and musicians to invest in these types of projects.

"I don’t think there’s been a buzz for something like this [in D.C.] since Nobu," Koroma said, referring to the celebrity-fueled global Japanese restaurant launched by actor Robert De Niro, Hollywood producer Meir Teper and chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Nobu opened its D.C. location in the West End in 2017.

"I think sort of the genuine feel of it all, the authenticity [with Kitsuen's chef being from Tokyo], and just the partners involved, between everyone's experience with the nightlife and ramen’s popularity, I don’t know how you miss to be honest, when you bring all of those things together collectively," Koroma said.

Pusha T, the stage name of Terrence Thornton, first began gaining recognition as half of hip hop duo Clipse, alongside his brother and fellow rapper No Malice. In 2018, the Virginia Beach, Virginia, native and Bethesda, Maryland, resident received a Grammy nomination for his album Daytona that included hit singles "If You Know You Know" and "What Would Meek Do?"

Kitsuen, which means smoke in Japanese, is set to open along the trendy H Street corridor across from Rock & Roll Hotel, Bullfrog Bagels and Maketto. Plans call for a loungey vibe where craft cocktails will be the focus. The restaurant is also set to be located a little more than a block down the street from popular ramen restaurant Toki Underground.

The Kitsuen lease is for 10 years.

For the Record

LaMean Koroma of Cresa represented Kitsuen in the lease, while Wes Neal of Recon CRE brokered the deal for ownership.