A First Look at ICHI Sushi and NI Bar in Bernal

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The interior at the new ICHI Sushi. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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NI Bar. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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Mural by Erik Marinovich. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

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The sushi counter. Photo: Dana Eastland. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Eastland. We broke the news on tablehopper back in July that Erin and Tim Archuleta of ~ICHI SUSHI~ were opening a second location across the street from ICHI in Bernal. We’ve got an exciting update, plus photos of their new space, which is getting ready to open this spring.

The new space, which is more than double the size they had to work with before, is divided into two spots: ICHI Sushi and NI Bar (ichi means “one” in Japanese; ni means “two”). ICHI, in front, will continue to serve sushi with sashimi and nigiri as the focus, and the larger kitchen will also allow for an expanded offering of hot dishes. NI Bar, in the back, will serve izayaka-style dishes (no sushi) and drinks for folks looking for a quick bite or those waiting for a table. As for the original ICHI, it will become an oyster and raw bar after the new location is up and running.

It was important to the Archuletas to keep the soul and intimacy of their small space, and to that end they’ve worked hard to make sure the new spot feels playful and welcoming. The space was designed by architect Thomas Pippin of Lifebox Studios, who has kept the space sweet and soulful, with many of the same wood materials as the previous location. Kevin Balestrieri of BALI Construction did the buildout, with lots of wood finish work, including a paperwood bar that is not only silky to the touch, but also retains warmth to keep the space inviting.

They’ve also worked with local artists on some of the design elements, including a mural by their neighbor, artist Erik Marinovich, that playfully depicts the “rules” of ICHI (for a funny reenactment of the mural’s advice, check out this piece from The Bold Italic). Tim Archuleta made all the bar stools and shelves, and did all the ironwork, including a clever television frame that hides the screen when it’s off (which it will be most of the time).

As for the food, there are a few different ways to get your fill here. Tim and sous chef Erik Aplin (who already works at ICHI) are working with Chris Kiyuna of Mission Bowling Club to get the menu ready for the opening. There is a 30-seat sushi counter in the front, along with table seating. In back, there is an omakase-only counter that looks into the kitchen and is available by reservation only. Then, there is the NI Bar, with its snacks and izakaya-style plates. Many of the items on the main dining room menu will be classics from the original menu, including the chicken wings, pork belly, and beef tataki. The new space will allow them to do more whole butchery with the fish, too, so you’ll see some new cuts offered on the menu. And of course, the menu will change frequently with the seasons.

The additional space has also allowed them to expand their beverage offerings. The bar is helmed by Ken Furusawa (formerly of Range, Rubicon, and La Folie). They’ll have Japanese beer on tap, including Hitachino, Sapporo, and Asahi, along with some local choices from the likes of Almanac and 21st Amendment.

As for wine, you’ll find 16-20 options by the bottle and 6-8 by the glass. The list, which is still being finalized, will be dominated by whites, along with a few lighter reds with balanced acidity, some rosés, and bubbly. The focus on the list will be on pairing the wine with seafood, of course, and on featuring smaller producers with distinctive style. There will be four wines on tap, one red and three whites, one of which is a custom blend from Andis Wines in Amador County.

And of course, there will be sake. There will be at least 20 different sakes available, many of them only available seasonally. They’re also working on a shochu cocktail list that will offer shochu the same way it is enjoyed in Japan: as a spirit, served very simply (no pseudo appletinis here). The cocktails will be simple, refreshing, and intended to pair well with the food.

Right now, the time line is for NI Bar to open softly in mid-February. Then, the new ICHI should be able to open in March, and the former ICHI will open shortly after that. Basically, if everything goes according to plan, all three projects will be up and running by late spring. We’ll update you with exact dates when we have them! 3282 Mission St. at 29th St.