As COVID-19 restrictions begin to loosen in San Francisco, there is hope on the horizon for restaurants and dining. This includes the news that Restaurant Nisei, the first project of former California chef David Yoshimura, has found a permanent home in the legendary former home of La Folie at 2316 Polk Street. The restaurant was forced to change gears at the start of the pandemic, operating as a pop-up operation that served up jewelry-shaped bento boxes from Mister Jius Ho Ho general store. And while those boxes were a popular item and sustainable over the past year, Yoshimura says he’s ready to ditch bento boxes in favor of the tasting menu he’s been planning for years.
The background to what I’m doing isn’t too far removed from the Californios style, says Yoshimura. I intend to open a gourmet concept tasting menu but with Japanese cuisine. Nisei refers to the second-generation Japanese Americans not born in Japan, whose concept is the basis of the menu, highlighting the Japanese-American style of food that has become prevalent in America. There’s a Japanese-American culture in California, that weird kind of cuisine that you can’t find in Japan and that’s totally unique to us.
The basis of the cuisine is Washoku, the homemade soul food from Japan, says Yoshimura, but through the prism of California. Dishes like curry and rice, teriyaki chicken or beef, katsudon and spam musube are good examples. [of the style], Yoshimura said. Things that are not completely Japanese. Diners can expect a 10- to 12-course menu starting at $ 145-160 when it opens, which could be as early as August 2021.
As for the space itself, Yoshimura is keeping it in the family, working with Carolyn Cantu (interior designer and wife of chef Californios Val Cantu) to redesign the interior into one. Zen style restaurant with sumptuous banquets and white oak bar. Roland [Passot] left the restaurant in great shape, says Yoshimura. So, it was really a redesign.
Restaurant Nisei will retain the format of the formal restaurant dining and seating area, giving Yoshimura the option of presenting small bites with cocktails instead of the formal tasting menu experience. It’ll be cool to have this look for people who can’t walk into Nisei for a drink before or after, Yoshimura says. There will also be a park to accommodate outdoor dining.
His other goal will be to pair local wines with Japanese cuisine, which Yoshimura (a certified sommelier) finds often overlooked in favor of sake. I think Japanese cuisine can be beautifully paired with wine, he says. Most restaurants only serve sake with Japanese food, but I want to serve California wines as well as the great sakes that come out of the bay area.
As the final plans come together, Yoshimura launched a Kickstarter to finance the final overhaul of the restaurant. Stay tuned for more.
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