A couple new and casual projects are brewing from two higher-end SoMa restaurants, Gozu and Birdsong. Coming in early 2023 from the MZ Dining Group (Ittoryu Gozu) will be YOKAI, a Japanese-inspired, hi-fi bar and restaurant, focused on shareable plates and skewers cooked over binchotan charcoal, like king salmon belly with matcha, buttermilk, and dill; and Wolfe Ranch quail with fresh wasabi and double-fermented shoyu. Smaller shareable dishes may include coal-seared wagyu carpaccio, fermented truffle dressing, preserved ramps, and black trumpet mushrooms. Large-format dishes may include slow-roasted wagyu neck served with accompaniments and steamed whole Japanese sea bream. Chef Marc Zimmerman has named Gozu (and former Alexander’s Steakhouse) colleague Jessie Lugo as Yokai’s chef de cuisine.
Yokai, which means “spirit” in Japanese, will focus on Japanese whisky and cocktails, as well as brandies, Cognacs and the burgeoning Japanese gin scene. The 60-seat restaurant is opening in a post-Quake, five-story building with soaring ceilings and exposed brick, just four blocks away from Gozu. The space will have a vintage McIntosh sound system and an extensive vinyl collection. 545 Mission St. at 1st St.
Meanwhile, the two-star BIRDSONG team (led by chef Chris Bleidorn and partner Aarti Shetty) is going to open a brick-and-mortar location of BIRDBOX in South Park later this month. Studio SAINT, the firm who also designed Birdsong, is behind the 50-seat, two-level restaurant.
The fast-casual, fried chicken concept originally debuted as a pop-up in March 2020, which got attention for the claw that was left intact on the leg. It will still be an option on the menu: “Claude the Claw,” a deboned thigh and drum with the claw attached, served on a potato bun with housemade yeayo sauce (does it make your face numb?), and pickled and fresh vegetables. There will be half and quarter fried chicken “Birdboxes,” with cornbread, double-fermented hot sauce, and seasoning choices like classic yeast, sour cream and onion, and spicy falcon. Caw.
Birdbox will highlight free-range, humanely raised, organic chickens raised in local family farms. This fried chicken has a very detailed process, with seasoning made with rendered schmaltz and roasted bones, and pickle juice is repurposed in the poultry brine.
Counter service will be offered for lunch and dinner, as well as to-go and delivery options. For those dining in, wine and beer selections from mostly local producers and breweries will be on offer. Due to open in July. 680 2nd St. at Townsend.
A rendering of the upcoming Yokai.