A sneak peek at the massive dragon mural inside Pittsburgh’s newest restaurant

Plus, a clue to when Gi-Jin is opening.

A sneak peek at Gi-Jin.

A sneak peek at Gi-Jin.

Photo by Rick Zeleznik / Courtesy of Jeremy M. Raymer
Rossilynne Culgan

When Gi-Jin, one of Pittsburgh’s most anticipated restaurants, opens later this spring, diners can order sushi and drink gin in the shadow of two giant dragons.

Pittsburgh artist Jeremy M. Raymer created the dragon mural in shades of white, gray, and black with paint pens and a bit of spray paint — a process that took nearly 400 hours.

“(It’s) the most amount of detail I’ve done for a mural so far,” Raymer said. “There’s definitely a good bit of tension in it. I just tried to create it so it had a lot of depth, especially the texture for the scales. It definitely has an illustrative graphic design feel but especially the faces up-close — they have a really high level of rendering, especially in the mouths and the teeth.”

The mural measures in at 37 feet long and about 10 feet tall, occupying the length of the cozy Sixth Street restaurant, which will be the smallest space yet for the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group (owners of Meat & Potatoes, Butcher and the Rye, täkō, Pork & Beans, and Fish nor Fowl).

For DeShantz, precision is everything, whether that’s cooking or design. Local art features prominently in his restaurants, and interior design plays a major role, too, such as the intricate curved wood on the ceiling at Gi-Jin.

He already knew Raymer’s work from hiring the artist to create a mural at Fish nor Fowl. Plus, Raymer’s art is all over Pittsburgh in more than 50 locations, from his Magneto in the Lawrenceville, Hulk in the Strip District, and Sasquatch on the North Side.

DeShantz and Raymer worked together to determine the dragon design, eventually settling on this 1800s-inspired piece.

“I wanted it to have this gritty feel,” DeShantz said, lauding the mural’s flowing, abstract look. “I love the way it turned out. It’s amazing.”

As for the long-awaited Gi-Jin, look for a raw-focused restaurant with Japanese ingredients. It’ll be sushi-based, but not 100 percent traditional, the restaurateur said. Expect gin and Japanese whiskey on the bar menu.

DeShantz returned from Japan this week after a visit for inspiration, from the menu to the design. He’ll focus on attention to detail, everything from authentic lettering on the restaurant’s sign to the rice being cooked just right, for example.

“Taking one ingredient and making it perfect — cutting the fish a certain way, what fish I’m using,” he said.

DeShantz hopes to open in May, though an exact opening date hasn’t been set.

“I knew I wanted to do something that I thought would be cool for Pittsburgh,” he said. “I think of, ‘What does Downtown need?’ ‘What would be awesome?'”