When the three partners of the Washington, D.C., seafood restaurant DC Coast--owners Gus DiMillo and David Wizenberg and executive chef Jeff Tunks--decided to create a great Asian restaurant, they knew that a trip to the Far East was essential. Not only did they want to sample dishes to get inspiration for the menu but they also thought they could find one-of-a-kind decorative items at bargain prices--all without knowing a word of any language other than English. "We figured everyone would understand 'I'll take it' very well," DiMillo jokes.
They gave themselves three weeks abroad to find ideas, tableware, furniture and antiques. Armed with a checkbook and escorted by interior designer Walter Gagliano, who had also worked on DC Coast, and Aline Ho, a Vietnam-based designer who advised on purchase and export matters, they went on a whirlwind shopping spree in five cities--Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Macao and Singapore--and got nearly everything they needed.
"We definitely exceeded our expectations," says Tunks, who oversees both DC Coast and the new TenPenh (an Asian-sounding reference to the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where the restaurant will be located). "I gained at least 10 pounds," he explains. And though Tunks calculates that they spent more than $40,000 on the trip, he also estimates they saved the same amount by buying everything abroad.