Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Ozumo serves lunch

By awoodall
Saturday, February 21st, 2009 at 12:48 pm in Fun Stuff to do in Oakland, Night Owl.

Ozumo just added lunch to the weekday menu. The timing is good because the East Bay Express just did a review of the chic Japanese restaurant and lounge.

Ozumo is located at 2251 Broadway, at Grand Avenue. The restaurant is open for dinner, Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The bar opens at 4:00 p.m. Street parking and nearby off-street lots and garages are readily available and valet service is offered. Reservations are recommended and can be made through www.opentable.com or by calling (510) 286-9866. If you want to know a bunch more about it

Jennifer Nguyen, the Executive Chef at Ozumo, has created a lunch menu that reflects the restaurant’s focus on contemporary Japanese cuisine. Lunch is served weekdays.

With menus choices including salads, rice bowls, noodle dishes, sushi rolls and sushi, plus bento boxes, and price points ranging from $3.00 to $15.00, Ozumo Oakland’s “Izakaya”  (small plate) style menu is ideal for diners wishing to order individually or family style.

Ozumo Oakland was opened last December by Jeremy Umland, Ozumo founder, managing partner and long time Japanese resident/professional baseball player turned entrepreneur. Umland is the culinary pioneer who opened Ozumo San Francisco in 2001 and, in doing so, introduced contemporary Japanese cuisine to the Unites States, bringing together under one roof a sushi bar, sake lounge and robata grill.

Executive Chef Jennifer Nguyen, 39 years old, most recently helped open Aja Steak in Chicago. Prior to that she worked with legendary Iron Chef Morimoto, a luminary of the Philadelphia based Starr Restaurant Organization known for Pod and three Budda Kan locations.

The Ozumo Oakland sake list, with over 90 brands, is one of, if not the most extensive in this country. The full bar serves signature cocktails such as the Giddy Geisha and Sumo-kaze, plus top wines from around the world and Sapporo and Kirin beer on tap. The bar is decorated with blackened metal and rich wood accents and a large waterfall with stylized leaping fish. A hand-troweled concrete floor embedded with a leaf motif is complemented by an expansive Japanese washi work of art, titled “Surge,” along the back wall. The cozy lounge has tatami mat bench seating with overstuffed pillows.

The engaging décor at Ozumo Oakland, with an underling theme of water, air and earth, is the work of AGE Design of Japan, headed up by Ichiro Sato, one of Japan’s top interior designers. At the entrance to the restaurant is an oversized solid George Nakashima-style wood door with wood sidelites and a “live” edge. Highlights of the main dining room (seats 78) include earth tone slate floor tiles which extend up the walls and columns, custom oak wood tables and chairs and banquettes covered with traditional Japanese fabrics. Subdued lighting illuminates a second washi art work running the entire length of the west wall. The charcoal fired robata grill (seats 12), with a sunken kitchen area, is notable for its sustainably harvested ramon hard wood counter top.

The adjacent Kotatsu Room (seats 24), available for nightly or private function dining, is walled off on two sides by clear glass panels with glass shelves lined with sake bottles. A 20’ tall Japanese paper lantern creates a dramatic interior backdrop and acts as a beacon to outside passersby. The centerpiece of this shoes-off, uniquely Japanese room is a 12′ solid oak wood table surrounded by elevated bench seats.

The restaurant’s intimate sushi bar, topped with salt and pepper granite, also has a sunken kitchen area, allowing the standing chefs and seated diners to see eye to eye, separated by clear glass display cases filled with fresh sushi and sashimi selections, and illuminated by a ribbon of light coming from fixtures housed in a lower soffit.

The Oakland location also has a private dining room, complete with sliding shoji screen doors, which seats up to 50 people, making it one of the foremost such non-hotel venues in the East Bay. The room has oak wood floors and soffits and is decorated with a washi art piece, “Blue Moon,” framed in by traditional Japanese textured stucco. Full-restaurant private lunches and off-site catering are specialties of the house. More information can be obtained by contacting Vanessa Lee at vlee@ozumo.com.


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