Raw fish and gin to be focus of new DeShantz Downtown restaurant

Home to Heinz Hall and running to the foot of the Clemente Bridge, the stretch of Downtown’s Sixth Street, north of Liberty Avenue, is associated with some luminary Pittsburgh names, but these days it could be rechristened DeShantz Way.

Prolific native son chef Richard DeShantz will open his fifth Downtown restaurant and fourth on that same strip of Sixth Street with Gi-Jin, an Asian influenced restaurant with a heavy emphasis on raw seafood, and gin as the featured spirit.

Aiming for a late-summer opening in the space most recently occupied by Boutique 208, he’s partnering with chef Dave Racicot with whom he opened Tako in 2015.

This will also be his smallest restaurant to date. As opposed to the high volume at his flagship Meat & Potatoes or the ever-busy Pork & Beans, which opened last fall, Gi-Jin will be tight and focused, Mr. DeShantz said.

“This will be 25 to 30 seats, tops,” he said. “We want to be able to take the time to create something spectacular, push the envelope and focus on each dish. I understand what talent I have around me. Dave’s attention to detail is more than I’ve ever seen with anyone and this is right up his alley. I want my chefs to be happy. I want to do right by these guys — and if you have a weapon like Dave, you want to use him.”

The self-taught Mr. Racicot drew acclaim after earning Nemacolin Woodlands Resort’s Lautrec restaurant its coveted AAA Five Diamond rating in 2007, when he was just 29. Now helmed by Kristin Butterworth, it remains the only restaurant in southwestern Pennsylvania with that rating. He went on to open Notion in Oakmont, which later moved to East Liberty and closed in January 2015.

At Gi-Jin, diners may want to bring a sweater because when Mr. DeShantz says the menu will be raw, he isn’t kidding. He said it will incorporate classic raw dishes like nigiri, carpaccio, tartare, crudo, oysters and even cold vegetable preparations.

“When I’m with other chefs and we go out, raw things are my favorite,” he said. “This will have a Japanese-influence — clean and modern — and the space’s design is gonna pull from that.”

The name is a play on the Japanese word, Gaijin, which means foreigner, but to emphasize gin in the name.

“Gin, I think, matches the best with this kind of food, the juniper and the floral notes,” he said.

Though all of his restaurants have very specific themes, Mr. DeShantz’s process for creating a new one is pretty straightforward.

“I always try to think what the Downtown area needs, and the things that I enjoy.”

Dan Gigler: dgigler@post-gazette.com; Twitter @gigs412.


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