All of a sudden, a single block of Mission Street in Bernal Heights is poised become a Japanese food hotspot. Indeed, in a few months, Bernal Heights will be home to such a dense cluster of Japanese cuisine that the La Lengua Tourism Promotion Bureau should begin calling it Nano Tokyo.
We’re talking about the area of Mission near 29th Street. As we all know, this is where you’ll find Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar, the hyperacclaimed sushi bar and izakaya created by Bernal neighbors Tim and Erin Archuleta. And then, of course, Coco Ramen recently opened up across the street, right next door to the unfortunately named (but actually quite solid) Crazy Sushi. So: Sushi, sushi, izakaya, and ramen.
Now Bernalwood has learned that even more Japanese cuisine is coming to this area:
Yes, construction is now underway inside the former location of the much-lamented Eagle Donuts. Bernalwood has learned that the space will soon become the Fumi Curry House, a restaurant that will specialize in Japanese-style curry. What’s Japanese-style curry? Well, it’s hearty and delicious — if somewhat esoteric on these shores. In Japan, people love it as a comfort food (sort of like the way Americans feel about mac and cheese). Here’s a photo of some Japanese curry your Bernalwood editor ate in Japan a few years ago:
People might be surprised to find curry in Japanese restaurants, but the fact is karē raisu (カレーライス), or Japanese curry rice, is so ubiquitous in Japanese home-cooking that it might well be considered one of the country’s national dishes.
Curry was introduced to Japan via the British in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Meiji-era Japan opened its doors to foreigners and their goods. As a result, Japanese curry inherits most of its characteristics from Anglo curry—which means that the Japanese used and continue to use curry powder. Curry powder, a ready-made mix of spices, began to be standardized and mass-produced in Britain at the height of Queen Victoria’s colonial stronghold of India. Curry powders are not only standardized masalas—they are also adapted to Western palates, and often result in curry dishes that are slightly sweet.
In Japan, British curry developed into karē raisu, a curried, thick stew of potatoes, carrots, onions, and your meat of choice, served over a bed of short-grain, white rice, and topped with pickles.
If you’ve never had Japanese curry, you’ll be able to try it soon enough. The build-out for Fumi Curry House is already underway inside the former Eagle Donuts, and construction should be complete in about a month. Then its just a question of how long it takes to sort out all the permits.
Meanwhile, just up the street, the Team Ichi is gearing up to open their new Japanese-style oyster bar inside Ichi Sushi’s cozy original space just down the road at 3369 Mission, on the corner of Godeus. So what is a Japanese-style oyster bar?
Frankly, we have no idea! Kaki is the Japanese word for oyster; the -ya at the end means “shop.” So kakiya means “oyster shop,” which isn’t very helpful because we already knew it was an oyster shop. Neighbor Tim and Neighbor Erin are being coy about their diabolical plans, but we’re told opening day is approaching. This weekend, however, the @ICHIKakiya Twitter account came to life for the very first time, whereupon we were treated to this photo of Chef Tim doing something unseemly with a large, red machine:
Now, it must be noted that none of the restaurants are Japanese-owned. (The owners of Fumi Curry House are Chinese.) Yet when you pull it all together, and look at what’s there now, and what’s coming soon, there is definitely a serious Japanese food cluster happening. It’s not big enough to be called a Little Tokyo. But it sure is starting to taste a little like Shibuya. (All that’s missing is a yakitori joint.)
So let us now dub this zone Nano Tokyo. Here is your guide map:
PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics