Friday, May 18, 2018

Likha Opens Inside Hometown Heroes Sports Bar with Modern Filipino Food

by Momo Chang
Fri, May 18, 2018 at 2:19 PM

A full spread at Likha. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AGGIE REVANE/@MISSMIYAGGIE
  • Photo courtesy of Aggie Revane/@missmiyaggie
  • A full spread at Likha.

Filipino food pop-up Likha has been rotating through locations like Starline Social Club and Ramen Shop for more than a year. Earlier this week, it softly opened within Emeryville’s Hometown Heroes Sports Bar. June 1 marks the grand opening, which is when Likha will be open daily for dinner. Until then, you can check it out on nights the Warriors are playing.

The bar itself is also brand new, located in the former Propaganda space at 4000 Adeline St. This is the bar owners’ third one; they also have South San Francisco’s Hometown Heroes and San Francisco’s Trademark & Copyright. The bar manager is BJ Tilos, who formerly worked as a bartender at Blind Tiger.

Likha means “to create” in Tagalog, and chefs Jan Dela Paz and Bobby Punla infuse that idea into their food. They met while cooking at Ramen Shop. Both are classically trained and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants prior to working at Ramen Shop. They fuse French techniques with traditional flavors, yet their food isn’t fussy — it’s at a sports bar, after all.

“Everyone is excited about tasting Filipino food,” said Punla, who was born and raised in Richmond. "We just wanted to get back to our Filipino roots — going with tradition, but using fresh produce from California.”

The chefs hope that one day, Filipino food will become as popular as Thai or Vietnamese, especially given that Filipino Americans are the largest Asian American population in California at about 1.5 million.
Likha started as Dela Paz’s pop-up with another Filipino American chef who worked at Ramen Shop, Catherine Baquiran, who later moved out of state. “That was fun,” Dela Paz said about that first pop-up. “It was exciting.”

Dela Paz, who started working at Ramen Shop because he wanted to open a ramen restaurant in Napa, was born and raised in the Philippines. But now, Dela Paz said he has changed his mind and feels committed to serving Filipino food. “Why do something else, if this is what I grew up knowing and eating?”
Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIKHA
  • Photo courtesy of Likha
  • Bobby Punla and Jan Dela Paz.

Currently, their menu includes dishes such as a Patis caramel fried chicken sandwich ($14). The chicken thighs are brined in Patis fish sauce, lemongrass, and ginger; fried in a rice flour batter; and then covered in Patis-caramel glaze. It comes with fries, with the highlight being the house-made “banana ketchup” made from roasted plantains, which is probably the best house-made ketchup out there. They also have chicharrones with adobo spice ($5), barbecued ribs ($14), and a healthy portion of Niman Ranch pork lumpia ($8) with two types of dipping sauces.

On June 1, they will debut a fuller menu with rice bowls — think chicken adobo with a sous vide egg; sisig (marinated pork served on a sizzling plate with vinegar) and lechon kawali (fried, crispy pork belly) and more lumpia.

Their “from scratch” approach leads them to creating things like Spam longanisa (sweet Filipino sausage), using a terrine and sous vide process, which they hope to add to their menu soon in the form of sliders or sandwiches, as well as when they eventually add breakfast and brunch.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

In West Oakland, Sweet Maria's Sells Green Coffee Beans for Home Roasters

by Momo Chang
Mon, May 14, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Sweet Maria's sells green beans for you to roast at home. - MOMO CHANG
  • Momo Chang
  • Sweet Maria's sells green beans for you to roast at home.

If you’ve ever thought about roasting your own coffee, Oakland is the place to be. Sweet Maria’s Home Coffee Roasting in West Oakland sells green coffee beans for folks who want to try their hand at making their own coffee.

Thompson Owen started the company 20 years ago in Columbus, Ohio, out of a basement and sold beans online. “It was back in the day when Friends was on TV,” said co-owner Maria Troy, who is also Owen’s wife. “You had these cafes where people go and hang out, but the coffee was terrible.”

The company moved to Emeryville in 2002, and then to a warehouse in West Oakland. In 2016, they moved into an even larger, West Oakland warehouse twice the size of the previous location. They’re among several food businesses in West Oakland, including Hodo (formerly Hodo Soy), the new Ghost Town Brewing, and artisanal spirits-maker Wright & Brown Distilling Co.

Sweet Maria’s ships beans mostly to people in the U.S., who hear about them largely through word-of-mouth. While they might be one of the largest green coffee bean wholesalers in the country, Troy adds that home roasting is still a tiny part of the coffee industry. “The whole world of home roasting is extremely small,” she said.

Nowadays, you can get green coffee on eBay and Amazon, but Troy says they take a quality approach, selecting each bean from different importers — year-round, they sell about 60 bean varieties, which vary by season. Chain shops mostly use blends so the coffee tastes consistent throughout the year. But some people may prefer variety, and some want a hands-on approach.

“There’s this trend in people being interested in the quality of the things they consume,” Troy said. “People have an interest in producing things themselves — you can make your own bread, you can make your own kombucha. Home roasting is something that’s pretty easy and you get pretty good results, even better than some specialty coffee shops.”

Sweet Maria’s currently ships to about 2,500 home roasters a week, including many regular customers. Green coffee stays good on the shelf for six months, and once roasted, Troy says it should be consumed within a week. Sweet Maria’s also has Coffee Shrub, which is their arm that sells to retailers. Modern Coffee, which has three locations in downtown Oakland, buys beans from Coffee Shrub but roasts all of the coffee themselves. Timeless Coffee, which has locations on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland and College Avenue in Berkeley, also roasts in-house, using beans from Coffee Shrub.

While home roasting may seem daunting, Troy says that it’s pretty basic. “If you can get your hands on green coffee, it’s actually a pretty simple process to roast at home,” Troy said. “You can roast in a toaster oven, hot air popcorn popper, on the stove in a frying pan or wok. And of course, you have to have a grinder, but you can do these things in your kitchen.”

Sweet Maria’s sells starter kits to and is open to walk-in customers during business hours on weekdays at 2823 Adeline St. They’ve offered roasting classes in the past, and will be launching new classes soon.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Citing Gentrification, Craft & Spoon Announces Closure

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, May 11, 2018 at 2:02 PM

Charleen Caabay will soon close her Oakland restaurant. - SANTANA BELLAS/FILE PHOTO
  • Santana Bellas/File Photo
  • Charleen Caabay will soon close her Oakland restaurant.

Despite the success of chef Charleen Caabay's Filipino restaurant Kainbigan and her rise after becoming the first Filipino chef to win Food Network's Chopped, her latest restaurant Craft & Spoon is set to close on Friday, May 18, after less than one year in business.

Caabay, which owns Craft & Spoon with Christine De La Rosa, Aima Paule, and Michael Schlieker, announced the closure on Instagram. "With the fast moving aches of gentrification, being offered a LEASE for $225,000, is simply absurd and ridiculous," she stated. "It's not easy running a business in a city that's changing by the minute."

The concept for Craft & Spoon (1629 Broadway), which sits in the rapidly developing Uptown neighborhood, is a lunch spot where the office crowd could get something quick, simple, and relatively healthy, with subtle hints of Filipino flavors. It never seemed to find a large audience, despite immediate support from the queer community. Some of Caabay's fans from Kainbigan wanted to see her continue to serve traditional Filipino dishes.

"From this we've learned how much of an importance it is to have a POC presence in the heart of The Town," Caabay continued on Instagram, before asking supporters to spend their dollars with other small, local businesses helmed by people of color.

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Roam Artisan Burgers Opens First Oakland Location

by Momo Chang
Fri, May 11, 2018 at 8:45 AM

Roam's special Springtime Burger with chimichurri and fresh mozzarella. - PHOTO COURTESY OF KASSIE BORRESON
  • Photo courtesy of Kassie Borreson
  • Roam's special Springtime Burger with chimichurri and fresh mozzarella.

A popular, local burger chain is coming for Oakland.
Roam Artisan Burgers (1951 Telegraph Ave., Ste. 2) opens today in the Uptown neighborhood, bringing sustainable burgers — including some vegetarian options — to the neighborhood.

Roam first opened in San Francisco’s Marina/Cow Hollow district in 2010. Since then, it has expanded with more outposts in San Francisco, Lafayette, and San Mateo, serving burgers, sides, shakes, sodas, and wine and beer on tap.

“We’ve been excited about the area for a long time,” said Joshua Spiegelman, co-owner of Roam Artisan Burgers with Lynn Gorfinkle. “It’s a good mix of demographics. There are a lot of young people — office workers during the day, and vibrant activity at night.”

What sets Roam apart from most burger joints is the focus on quality, sustainable ingredients. Spiegelman said they also strive keep items at affordable price points. Much of the produce is sourced locally — they serve a seasonal farmers market salad, for example. Their sodas are all housemade (“no Coca-Cola, nothing artificial,” Spiegelman notes). Their rich shakes are made from Straus Family Creamery’s organic soft serve.

Roam moved into a retail space on the bottom floor of The Uptown Apartments, in a previously unoccupied space that is about 2,000 square feet, right next to Little Giant Ice Cream.

For vegetarians, there is a housemade organic veggie burger made from quinoa, brown rice, black beans, beets, and spices. And the gluten-free can get their burger on a gluten-free bun or wrapped in lettuce. Their burger menu includes a 100 percent grass-fed beef burger (from 4K Ranch in Montana), a free-range turkey burger (Diestel Family Turkey Ranch in California), a bison burger (made from pasture-raised bison), and a rotating protein, which is currently elk from Durham Ranch in Wyoming. There are fries, too, and plenty of drink options, including wine, local beer on tap, and kombucha.

The basic burger starts at $9.50, and the kids’ meals start at $7.50 for a grilled cheese-and-fries combo. The menu is similar to other Roam locations, including signature burger styles, like the BBQ, with aged white cheddar, barbecue sauce, caramelized onions, jalapeno relish, and oil and vinegar slaw. They also offer a few seasonal options, like the Springtime Burger with chimichurri, fresh mozzarella, tomato, arugula, and an herb mayonnaise.

Roam is open for lunch and dinner. The ambience is modern-rustic, with a large communal table made from Douglas Fir. There’s also bar seating, regular tables, and an outdoor patio. “We’re really excited to open it in Oakland,” Spiegelman said. “This project has been a long time coming. With all the arts and entertainment going on, we’re really excited to be a part of it.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Burger Philosophies Abound in KronnerBurger Cookbook, 'A Burger to Believe In'

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, May 8, 2018 at 10:06 AM

5-9_food_news.jpg

A strange thing is happening in the East Bay cookbook world. James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare cookbook came out several months after the seminal restaurant closed. Preeti Mistry’s Juhu Beach Club Cookbook arrived soon after she announced the closure of her beloved restaurant. And now, we have the KronnerBurger cookbook at a time when KronnerBurger has languished empty and dark ever since a February fire. With Chris Kronner’s new post at Henry’s in Berkeley, KronnerBurger’s fate remains a mystery.

I sincerely hope A Burger to Believe In: Recipes and Fundamentals, which arrives May 22 via Ten Speed Press, doesn’t become a relic of KronnerBurger like the Hawker Fare and Juhu Beach Club books — something to cling to and cry over when your recreations, despite meticulously following the recipe, just don’t come out quite as wonderful as your memories.

In A Burger to Believe In, you will find the recipe for the restaurant’s eponymous burger, notoriously served rare and only rare. It was the result of Kronner’s 10 years of research and experiments. Every tiny element has been ruthlessly thought out: the cow’s diet, the aging process, the grind, the fire, the cooking time, and the most minimal of extras. At a time when many chefs were adding foie gras, bacon jam, Sriracha leather, edible gold, and other superfluous items to the humble burger, Kronner focused on the essentials, and that’s what made his burger special.

If you love this burger, you will be delighted with the level of detail in the eight-part recipe, for there are sub-recipes for the pain de mie bun, dill pickles, charred onion, cheddar mayo, roasted bone marrow, tomato, and lettuce. But if you are a fan of the restaurant, you probably love much more than the burger. There’s the exceptional patty melt, which gets its zing from Chinese
hot mustard; the veggie burger, which gets its umami from mushrooms and mushroom powder; the avocado and crispy rice salad, inspired by Vietnamese flavors; and the flagship dessert, the sweet-salty honey pie. There are also recipes from Kronner’s past gigs, specifically at Slow Club and Bar Tartine in San Francisco, and originals developed for the book.

It’s also a delightful read all around. Co-written by Paolo Lucchesi, food editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, A Burger to Believe In dives deep into burger land with equal parts nerdom and irreverence. There’s the story of Bill Niman of Niman Ranch fame, a tale about an unusually old cow, musings on the burger’s role in American culture, and short interludes penned by folks such as Bradford Taylor, the owner of Oakland’s Ordinaire. Eric Wolfinger’s bombastic, over-the-top photography sets an appropriate tone. You will probably laugh out loud. More importantly, you will actually learn something.


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Monday, May 7, 2018

How a New California Bill Could Change the Game for Small Distilleries

by Momo Chang
Mon, May 7, 2018 at 10:25 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF FALCON SPIRITS DISTILLERY
  • Photo courtesy of Falcon Spirits Distillery
When you walk up to a distillery like St. George Spirits in Alameda or Falcon Spirits Distillery in Richmond, you can’t buy anything unless the place has a tasting room and you participate in a tasting first.

A new bill, dubbed the “Craft Distiller Op-pour-tunity Act,” would change that. Proposed by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), SB 1164 would treat craft distilleries more like wineries and breweries — a piggyback off of the Craft Distillers Act in 2015 that allowed distillers to sell their spirits, but only up to three bottles per person at their tasting room. The new law would expand the rights of the 82 craft distilleries in the state, allowing them to sell directly to consumers and to produce more — from 100,000 gallons to 150,000 gallons — as well as eliminating the requirement that a consumer must participate in a tasting prior to buying a bottle at the distillery.

For example, Falcon Spirits, a small operation without a tasting room, can only sell its popular gins and amaro through a distributor. (Distillers sell to a wholesaler, which then sells to the retail shops where consumers can purchase it.) For Falcon Spirits, it also means their products are not sold anywhere in Richmond because the distributor doesn’t deliver in Richmond.

“It’s definitely good for us to sell directly to the public,” said owner Farid Dormishian about the proposed bill.

Dormishian added that people often reach out to him, wanting to buy directly from the distillery, but he has to find retail stores that carry his bottles and suggest consumers go there instead.

The Bay Area has a robust but small craft distillery scene. The most well known in the East Bay is St. George Spirits, whose president and distiller, Lance Winters, was recently a finalist for a James Beard Award. St. George and Alameda’s Hangar 1 Vodka both have full-on tasting rooms, but several others don’t.

While Falcon Spirits doesn’t currently have a tasting room, it’s something Dormishian is entertaining. He hopes the proposed law will lead to more public awareness of what makes a craft distillery truly a craft distillery.

“It’s not just the sales, it’s the fact that people can come and see the process firsthand,” he said. “If we put a face behind the product, [then] they will understand the spirits a lot better. Educating people what is a craft is important because not all things labeled as craft are craft. The more consumers find out, the better.”

Another part of the bill, though, would allow local distilleries to sell imported products from out of state if they use a wholesale distributor. This potentially muddies the idea that any bottles bought from a local distillery are made locally.

The bill is still making the rounds and just passed out of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee with a bipartisan vote. It will head to the Senate Appropriations Committee next.

Editor's Note: A previous version of the article quoted Dormishian implying that the new law would allow him to sell directly to stores, but the new bill doesn't change rules for distillers selling to retailers.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

La Marcha Owners to Open New Wine Shop The Mile Limit

by Momo Chang
Mon, Apr 30, 2018 at 1:21 PM

Sergio Emilio Monleón (left) and Emily Sarlatte have already found success with La Marcha. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PHI TRAN
  • Photo courtesy of Phi Tran
  • Sergio Emilio Monleón (left) and Emily Sarlatte have already found success with La Marcha.

Sergio Emilio Monleón and Emily Sarlatte, chefs and owners of Berkeley’s popular La Marcha Tapas Bar, plan to open a new wine shop that would cater to millennials, seasoned wine connoisseurs, and everyone in between.

The new shop and retail space, The Mile Limit, will be located at
 San Pablo Ave., on the same block as La Marcha, and will carry a curated selection of wines from around the world. It should open in late summer or early fall.

“The concept is kind of like a neighborhood, approachable wine shop for the younger generation that wants to come and explore and learn about wine,” Monleón said.

While La Marcha specializes in Spanish-style tapas and paella feasts, The Mile Limit will not be limited to Spanish wine. The owners do, however, plan to feature some Spanish influences, though they’re still figuring out what exactly that will look like. Monleón and Sarlatte have spent significant time in Spain.

The goal is to highlight wines from parts of the world that are underrepresented in the wine industry and Bay Area retail spaces. One such place is Portugal, which Monleón says produces specific bottles he hopes to carry. They will also carry rare varietals that may be on the verge of extinction. (Varietals are typically wines made from a single type of grape.) Because most people ask for familiar wines — their Rosés, Chardonnays, Cabs, and Merlots — the smaller varietals that are lesser known and less carried in restaurants sometimes stop being produced. The owners are excited to introduce these to the public — and perhaps save them from extinction.

“We’re looking for unique finds that you can’t find in the larger chains or supermarkets,” Monleón said. 

The other focus is on California-made wine. The Mile Limit plans to carry ones from wineries run by immigrants, “who came over from Mexico and worked their way up, and now run their own wineries,” Monleón said.

Their goal is to educate people about wine and engage both connoisseurs and folks who are new to the wine world. Monleón is not sure yet if the new shop will include food, too.

The name of the shop refers to the Prohibition era in the late 1800s, when a California law banned the sale of alcohol within a mile of UC
Berkeley just a few years after the new campus was completed. (The Mile Limit space is located just over a mile from campus). And though national Prohibition ended in 1933, the one-mile dry zone law in Berkeley wasn’t repealed until about 100 years after it was implemented, in the 1970s.


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Friday, April 27, 2018

What Berkeley's 'Disposable-Free Dining' Plastics Ban Would Mean for Restaurants

by Momo Chang
Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 8:42 AM

Children from the Oxford School spoke about why they support the Disposable-Free Dining ordinance. Their classroom is a zero-waste class. - MOMO CHANG
  • Momo Chang
  • Children from the Oxford School spoke about why they support the Disposable-Free Dining ordinance. Their classroom is a zero-waste class.

First, it was Styrofoam. Then it was plastic bags and plastic straws. Now, the City of Berkeley is proposing a ban on all single-use, non-recyclable plasticware.

According to a study from Oakland-based nonprofit Clean Water Action, containers from restaurants is the biggest source of street litter; much of it gets washed down the storm drain into waterways and is sometimes eaten by marine animals.

A new proposed ordinance from Berkeley, dubbed Disposable-Free Dining, is likely the most sweeping and comprehensive plastics ban legislation in the country. It’s co-authored by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Councilmember Sophie Hahn.

So, what exactly does the ordinance state? First of all, all dining-in experiences will use real silverware and plates. Second, any takeout containers will need to be either compostable or recyclable, and the recyclables will need to comply with a city-approved list. Customers will also be charged for to-go cups or containers at 25 cents apiece. Finally, straws, utensils, condiments, and the like will only be given upon request. (There’s an opt out for businesses who can’t make the changes due to financial circumstances, giving them an extension of up to three years, and customers on WIC or CalFresh won’t be charged for not bringing their own containers). The goal is to encourage people to bring their own takeout containers, similar to what’s been happening with the ban on plastic bags at grocery stores.

Berkeley hopes to be a zero-waste city by 2020, and this is one move toward that goal. But another reason is that much of the cheap, recyclable plastics was shipped to China in the past; in January, China announced that the country will no longer accept our recyclables. “We’re used to exporting our plastics overseas,” said Martin Bourque, director of the Ecology Center, the nonprofit recycling center for Berkeley. “Why aren’t we handling our own problems in California?”

Several East Bay establishments already comply with the new ordinance. Eric Fenster, owner of Gather in downtown Berkeley, said his restaurant opened in 2009 with this ethos and that he wholeheartedly supports the ordinance, but he also understands that other restaurants may have challenges. More and more fast-casual restaurants, for example, are focused on takeout and
delivery — some even serve food exclusively in disposable containers. “It’s tricky, I recognize,” Fenster said. “I think the key to this is really going to come with the right resources for businesses so that it’s not hard for them to make the shift. Businesses are already so hard to run.” He hopes to push it even further with his own establishment, and may use reusable, to-go containers down the line.

A few cases studies from Clean Water Action show that businesses can actually save money in the long run — anywhere from $1,000-$22,000 a year when customers use reusable plates, cups, and forks instead of disposable ones. There might be more upfront costs, such as buying reusable plates, silverware, and even a dishwasher in some cases, but in the long run, it may lead to savings. “There’s a return on that investment,” said Samantha Sommer, waste prevention program manager at Clean Water Action.

The new law still needs to be voted on, likely in the fall, by Berkeley city councilmembers. The authors hope that it will go into effect in 2019.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

East Bay Restaurants — and Restaurants Rocked by Sex Scandals — Make Michael Bauer's Top 100 List

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 1:10 PM

Mi Quang at The Temple Club, which made Michael Bauer's best restaurants list for 2018. - MELATI CITRAWIREJA / FILE PHOTO
  • Melati Citrawireja / File photo
  • Mi Quang at The Temple Club, which made Michael Bauer's best restaurants list for 2018.

San Francisco Chronicle
restaurant critic Michael Bauer's annual Top 100 Restaurants list came out today. While it has long been the most important single restaurant listicle in the Bay Area, this year's edition is interesting for another reason: it includes a few local restaurants whose owners have been accused of sexual harassment.

The owners of previous Top 100 list-makers Pizzaiolo, Boot & Shoe Service (though it was recently sold), Tosca Cafe, Coqueta, and Bottega have been widely accused of inappropriate behavior and fostering unsafe workplace environments. While Bauer decided to eliminate Oakland's Pizzaiolo and Boot & Shoe Service, he kept the remaining San Francisco and Napa establishments.

Earlier this month, the Chronicle released a series of essays from writers on staff, including Bauer, on that very topic. While three writers firmly stated the newspaper shouldn't reward said restaurants when there are plenty of other worthy options, Bauer wasn't so sure. Now we know where he landed.

While the list is always heavy on San Francisco fine dining, it also includes several Oakland and Berkeley restaurants this year. Camino, Chez Panisse, Commis, Ippuku, Iyasare, Nido, Ramen Shop, and Vik's Chaat returned. Comal and Tastee Steam Kitchen were removed. And The Temple Club, the East Oakland Vietnamese restaurant, was one of this year's new additions.

See the full list here.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Delage Owner Opens Utzutzu, Bringing Prix-Fixe Sushi to Alameda

by Momo Chang
Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 10:35 AM

Needle fish and blue fin tuna nigiri at Utzutzu's soft opening. - MOMO CHANG
  • Momo Chang
  • Needle fish and blue fin tuna nigiri at Utzutzu's soft opening.

Utzutzu means “reality” in Japanese. And in reality, it’s a wonder. Located along Alameda’s busy thoroughfare Park Street, the restaurant has a tiny footprint and is halfway hidden, tucked away in an upstairs dining room.

The location’s previous restaurant, Yume Sushi, closed last year when chef Hideki Aomizu retired. Utzutzu is a riff on the meaning of Yume: “dream” in Japanese. Aomizu tapped Chikara Ono, chef and restaurateur of AS B-Dama and Delage in Oakland, to open a new restaurant in Yume’s space.

Utzutzu (1428 Park St., Ste. B) softly opened this week to just a few customers — it seats seven people at the intimate sushi bar — and will have its grand opening on Saturday, April 28.

In line with Delage, Ono’s set-menu restaurant in Old Oakland, the restaurateur’s newest place provides a cozy food experience. Expect exquisitely plated sushi, with most of the seafood flown in from Japan, and locally sourced, seasonable vegetables. During the soft opening phase, the okimari (prix-fixe) meal is $80 per person and will be bumped up to $100 once it officially opens.

Okimari, Ono explained, is more like what prix-fixe means in the United States, particularly for sushi restaurants in Japan. The set meal is based on what the chef selects — the best and most fresh — with a set price. Currently, the restaurant doesn’t have a menu published ahead of time. Instead, you just trust what the chef makes, and everyone gets the same thing. (Omakase is also chef’s choice but doesn’t necessarily include a set price). Okimari is usually considered the best bang for your buck. There will be no separate, a la carte menu.

Seven seats wrap around Utzutzu's sushi bar. - MOMO CHANG
  • Momo Chang
  • Seven seats wrap around Utzutzu's sushi bar.

The interior has been remodeled under Ono’s careful eye — almost completely with antique furniture from the 1920s to ’50s —and is larger than the previous Yume space. One wall was knocked down to build a lounge area, where Ono hopes to serve food and sake tastings in the future.

The sushi chef at Utzutzu is Joji Nonaka, who comes from ICHI Sushi in San Francisco. The chef is Asuka Uchida, previously at AS B-Dama, who makes the appetizers, salads, soups, and cooked items, plus the dessert. Ono will remain the chef at Delage.

The meal includes about 16 pieces of sushi and an appetizer, salad, soup, and dessert. Sushi may include akami (blue fin tuna) or sayori (needle fish), with rice from Japan lightly seasoned with red vinegar. Nonaka also makes a few vegetable-based sushi bites. During the soft opening, the chefs also prepared a salad with asparagus, peas, radish, Brussels sprouts, and quail egg; a grilled clam; and strawberry ice cream for dessert.

Reservations can be made through Resy or through Delage. The remaining soft opening dates are currently full, though it may be worth checking for last-minute cancellations. Starting Saturday, April 28, the restaurant will begin offering two seatings each night.


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