“Mashita” is Korean for “delicious” and the restaurant’s food lives up to its name. Slated to open at 105 North Liberty Street in downtown Harrisonburg the first week of October, Mashita will serve a wide range of Korean-inspired dishes as well as beer, wine, sake, and non-alcoholic beverages. Diners can take different approaches to the menu, whether they want a tapas-style experience with many small plates or a traditional meal. Mashita offers low prices in comparison to competitors, with many options priced at $10 or less. The space is clean and modern, but also colorful, with a bold mural and local art pieces as well as traditional Korean art and artifacts.
Owner and chef Mikey Reisenberg started the restaurant as a food truck, which is still in operation at 105 North Liberty St., six years ago. Mashita gained a local following for its Shenandoah Valley brand of cultural fusion. Take Korean comfort food as your starting point, apply French cooking methods to locally sourced ingredients, add a Valley spin, and the result is Mashita. Mikey describes his cuisine as a mashup, equal parts traditional Korean, urban American, and classic southern. It may come as a pleasant surprise to diners new to Mashita that Korea and the American South share some favorite comfort foods, including melt-in-your-mouth brisket and crispy fried chicken.
Mikey credits his Korean heritage, his adoptive American family’s competitive cooking, and his French culinary training at The Joshua Wilton House as sources of inspiration for Mashita’s food.
His journey started with his family’s foodie culture, where he first learned how to identify good food. With seven aunts and great aunts who cooked, he describes family reunions as a competition to see who could make the best food. Although he’s worked in independent restaurants since high school, cooking at The Joshua Wilton House was a formative experience for him. Current executive chef Tom French and former chef and owner Mark Newsom critiqued his food and introduced him to Korean American chefs, like David Chang, who were innovative in adapting Korean comfort food to American palates.
To those who have not yet experienced this relatively new fusion, Mikey describes Korean flavors as savory, acidic, and “funky”. The funkiness he refers to comes from pickled and fermented food like kimchi, or fermented vegetables. In addition to a brisket sandwich and chicken katsu, or Korean style battered fried chicken, house-made soft steamed buns stuffed with juicy meats are staples of the restaurant. This author was delighted by the flavor and texture combinations of the food. Mashita’s dishes satisfy Korean and American cravings, and their menu items cater to vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free diners as well.
Mashita’s Shenandoah Valley identity is embodied not only by locally sourced and house-made food, but by the decor of the restaurant and a mission to give back to the community. Mikey made the tables himself with rocks, live edge walnut, and food grade epoxy resin. The wood was sourced from Black Forest Saw Mill. Mike Arellano painted the restaurant’s striking mural, and Craig Snodgrass designed the logo. Even the succulents lining the windows are from David Sutton at the Harrisonburg Farmer's Market. Once the restaurant is in full swing, Mikey and the Mashita crew want to pay it forward by allowing diners to purchase five dollar tokens to give to those in need. The tokens can be redeemed for Mashita food, which Mikey points out is a very nutritious meal. Mashita has already found a home in Harrisonburg and in the Valley, now it's here to stay with a new location in downtown Harrisonburg that is sure to please regulars and newcomers alike.