Chef Scott Drewno can’t decide on a favorite menu item at ChiKo — “when you develop the menu, it’s like when you have children, you can’t really pick one,” he said with a laugh.
But, he said, the most popular dishes at the D.C.-area restaurant include the Soy Glazed Brisket, Orange-ish Chicken and Cumin Lamb Stir Fry.
Soon, those dishes — and others— will be available in Bethesda. ChiKo, a fast-casual restaurant that offers Chinese and Korean flavors updated with modern cooking techniques, will open a new location at 7280 Woodmont Ave. in January.
“We’ve always wanted to be in Bethesda,” Drewno said. “We love the neighborhood; we love the area.”
When it first opens, the spot will offer only takeout and delivery. It will replace Prima, an Italian restaurant that shut during the pandemic.
Though opening a restaurant is never easy, Drewno said, it’s been even a slower than usual getting permits during the pandemic as government agencies have been open for fewer hours and have reduced staff.
ChiKo was approved for an alcohol license on Dec. 17 and will offer local beers and wines.
“A lot of [our] food is spicy, sour, salty, sweet, so we kind of geared our wine list towards wines that pair well with that,” Drewno said.
Drewno and chef Danny Lee developed the menu. Drewno worked for Wolfgang Puck for 16 years. Lee worked with his mother Yesoon Lee, who is also a chef, at the traditional Korean restaurant Mandu, located in D.C.
Three years ago, they partnered up with restaurateur Andrew Kim to form a restaurant group called The Fried Rice Collective. Kim co-founded Matchbox Food Group in 2002 and runs the business side of ChiKo.
In 2017, the first ChiKo location opened on Capitol Hill. The group opened a second location in Dupont Circle in 2019.
The menu at the Bethesda location will have many of the items that are featured in the D.C. stores, including pork and kimchi potstickers and duck confit fried rice — but have a few store-specific options. Those are still in development, Drewno said.
The appetizers average about $10 with the entrees between $15 to $20. The menu has sections with gluten free and vegetarian dishes, as well as items geared towards children.
The Bethesda location will employ about 15 people, Drewno said. He hopes to offer indoor seating once the pandemic ends.