The wait is finally over for one of the most highly anticipated restaurants of the year. Tonight, Gene Kato (Japonais) finally opens the doors to two parts of his tri-level project, Sumi Robata Bar and Charcoal Bar. The decor in the Sumi Robata Bar is simple, featuring natural elements of restored wood and marble throughout. The 14 gorgeous handcrafted stools that align the robata bar, designed by Fukutoshi Ueno, an Australian-based Japanese designer, are truly the only elaborately decorative element to the space. This is intentional, as Kato is trying to portray a Japanese storefront, or 'kura.' The back dining room provides seating for an additional 21 guests.
The menu consists primarily of robata items, grilled on sumi, the highest grade of white oak charcoal. Divided into three areas of focus--Yasai (Vegetables), Gyokai-Rui (Seafood), and Oniku (Meat), diners can try selections like beef tsukune sliders with miso mustard; Australian cold water tail lobster with saikyo butter; or shishito with sea salt. To compliment the robata items is a selection of cold and hot appetizers like the smoked kamo, tea smoked duck breast with Japanese mustard and scallion; and hotate, sansho encrusted scallop with pickled shimeji mushrooms and dashi vinagrette. Pastry sous chef Moé Kobayashi (Alinea) creates the "sweet things," Amamimono, like the "No Crust Apple Pie" with yuzu-ginger poached Fuji apples and Okinawa sugar caramel.
The bottom floor of the building, the Charcoal bar, with seating for eleven, (and accessed by a hidden entrance) will really highlight Japanese cocktail culture and the use of rare ingredients and boutique liquors, concocted by mixologist Matthew Lipsky. Seating at the bar are first-come, first- served.
The restaurant soft opens tonight with a limited menu, with an official opening scheduled for next week. The restaurant will be open from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Thursday through Saturday; and closed on Sundays.