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Japanese Meets Peruvian: Kaiyo Brings Nikkei Cuisine To Cow Hollow


In the ever-evolving culinary scene of the Marina, food aficionados can now add Nikkei cuisine to the neighborhood's list of expanding restaurant options.

Kaiyo, a new contemporary restaurant from John Park (Whitechapel, Novela), opened last Friday in the space formerly occupied by Ottimista Restaurant & Bar (1838 Union St. at Octavia), which closed earlier this year. At the kitchen's helm is chef Michelle Matthews (Whitechapel, 15 Romolo).

While Nikkei cuisine may be relatively unfamiliar to many San Franciscans, the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese fare dates back a little over a century, after Japanese laborers began to emigrate to the South American nation in the late 1800s to work on farms. ("Nikkei" is the Japanese word for emigrants and their descendants.)

Kaiyo aims to offer a take on this confluence of styles with signature dishes like smoked duck breast nigiri with shaved foie gras torchon, served over sushi rice; causa limeña, a traditional Peruvian potato dish; and tiradito with scallop or halibut sashimi, Peruvian pepper sauce and avocado.

Look for other culinary twists as well, like a spicy mentaiko (pollock roe) pasta with kurobuta pork and parmesan; and anticuchos, street food-style grilled skewers with Wagyu A5 beef, Hokkaido scallops and grilled octopus.

As for libations, expect to see a similar blending of Japanese and Peruvian cultures, with cocktails centered around imported Japanese whisky. The "Kill Bill Vol. 1" is the restaurant's take on a "Toki Highball," with Suntory whisky toki, martini bitters, matcha, sarsaparilla and soda; while "Ghost in the Shell," comprised of Grey Goose vodka, tomato, fino sherry and elderflower, is named for the '80s Japanese manga franchise.

Also on offer is an extensive sake selection from the U.S. and Japan curated by sake sommelier Stuart Morris, and a beer and wine list curated to pair with Nikkei cuisine.

The interior space was designed by consultant Hannah Collins and overseen by Park, with a 35-foot-long living moss wall as the restaurant's centerpiece and contemporary art from local and international makers. The 60-seat restaurant also features seating for 14 on its outdoor patio.

Kayio is open Sunday–Wednesday 4 p.m.–12 a.m., and Thursday–Saturday 4 p.m.–2 a.m. Dinner service is 5–11 p.m. daily

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