April 27, 2012
Coming soon to Over the Rhine… a Japanese GastroPub and sushi bar that combines three venues into one: a contemporary dining room, a hip bar/lounge, and a year-round, landscaped beer garden. The latest kid on the block of the Gateway Quarter’s bustling restaurant scene is set to open in mid to late fall.
The place will be co-owned and operated by Jon Zipperstein and Hideki Harada. Zipperstein is probably best known as the restaurateur of Embers, one of the top dining establishments in the city, and Harada, a native Cincinnatian and Sycamore High alum, will play dual roles as owner/chef.
The restaurant concept is Japanese Izakaya. The food will be savory, salty, and go well with alcohol. “We’re taking American favorites into the Japanese style,” said Harada, whose parents are from Japan. “I want to gather all types of food palettes and don’t want to leave anyone behind. Most of the exotic stuff will come out of the sushi bar.”
By using fish that are in-season, Harada plans to incorporate the concepts of an eco-friendly menu. If the restaurant were open today, the night’s feature might be… Oyster Shooters, consisting of yuzu juice, cucumber water, and shochu, a Japanese liquor similar to vodka. My taste buds are already dancing.
Although they’d known each for years, Zipperstein and Harada first connected professionally in 2004 when Zipperstein opened Embers and recruited Harada as the sushi chef. Prior to the opening, Harada trained at Nobu in New York. After a year at Embers, Harada bounced around to a number of other Cincinnati restaurants including Boca, working under Chef David Falk.
In 2008, Harada was at a crossroads. “I was at a point where, having worked at one of the best restaurants in the city, I felt like I should either move onto a bigger city or move to Japan,” Harada said. He moved to Japan and not only reconnected with his family, but he also pursued his passion for the Japanese culinary arts.
Grilled sea eel with house made eel sauce
“It was the best place for my culinary career,” Harada admitted, in reference to his time working at Sushi Roku under Chef Horiuchi in Osaka. “I started rethinking sushi. I thought more about how to treat the fish in a respectful and appreciative way—how to appreciate the ocean.”
Then last spring, after emailing back and forth with Zipperstein about opening a restaurant, Harada came to the states for a visit.
With the revitalization of OTR, Zipperstein had already set his sights on Vine Street as the location for a possible new restaurant and thus, had been in light talks with 3CDC for the past two years. “I’d been looking at multitude of spaces, and after meeting with Hideki, my initial thoughts and his Japanese pub concept started to come together,” Zipperstein said.
*On the left – Toro (fatty tuna) with dried cranberries, toasted garlic, and hazelnuts tossed in white soy sauce. Finished with green onions and wasabi oil on a bed of baby arugula.
*On the right – Sweet potato beer from Japan, which will be one of many specialty beers at the new restaurant
In September, Harada officially moved back, and fittingly, has settled in Over the Rhine. “It’s exciting because the city is coming alive on a daily basis,” he said. “There is a community of entrepreneurs who want to do something and it’s all homegrown. The momentum for OTR is only getting stronger, and I want to be a big part of it.”
Over the course of the fall and winter they’ve worked with 3CDC on finding the right location and finally, as if it has been waiting for them all along, they found it. It’s the old Color Building on 14th and Vine. “I liked the fact that the space can accommodate three distinct venues but share a common thread,” Zipperstein said.
Elements of the original building such as the tin ceiling, exposed brick, and the decorative support columns, along with a fully exposed kitchen and circular sushi bar, will be incorporated in the dining room. Moving into the bar/lounge, one will notice it’s actually a separate building from the main structure and will embody the urban, edgy, hipster vibe that we’ve all come to know and love in OTR. As if that weren’t enough, there will be a beer garden too, a permanent, year-round structure which will include a landscaped area and fire-pit. “I anticipate we’ll have a DJ in the bar and live music in the garden, and perhaps in keeping with the Japanese theme, some karaoke,” explained Zipperstein.
Harada standing inside the soon-to-be dining room
The renaissance of OTR continues, and while all of the restaurants in the area are fantastic, this Japanese establishment plans to differentiate itself in a few ways. “The other places are kind of shotgun seating, which gives you a feel of that hustle and bustle, but our place will be more laid back,” Harada explained. Taking into account the dining room, bar, and beer garden, the space will be able to accommodate close to 200 people. “Also, there isn’t a Japanese restaurant in the area, and we’re due for one.”
That we are, and while I am looking forward to summer, the thought of a sushi bar with a beer garden and sake bombs—well, I think that’s called heaven. Actually it’s just the wonderful OTR. Fall 2012 can’t come soon enough.to top ↑