This week, most of the food world is buzzing about the 2024 closing of Noma, which many critics considered the best restaurant, period. Copenhagen chef René Redzepi called his operation “unsustainable,” leaving people speculating as to whether the fine dining model is dead entirely, or if Noma was just excessively pretentious. The truth may be somewhere in the middle, and fine dining may find itself in a moment of reinvention. Here in the Bay Area, an upscale dining trend that continues to captivate diners is omakase, a chef’s choice sushi format that’s traditional to Japanese cuisine.
The latest in the omakase craze is the posh Akikos, which relocated to The East Cut this past Tuesday. Located in a pocket park called Avery Lane, cult-favorite chef Ray Lee has been incubating this idea for at least a year and a half now—though the original location opened on Bush Street in 1987. Lee’s team dry-ages seafood sourced from Toyosu, Tokyo’s famous fish market. Omakase is as much about performance as it is about the fish, and Akikos’ 24-seat counter is a kind of 360-degree black box theater for the chef’s stage, where guests can feast their eyes on Lee and his crew as they masterfully slice sashimi and plate each course.
The East Cut
It’s also been quite a week for new cafes. A mile and a half up Folsom from Akikos is a new coffee and wine bar. Over in the East Bay, a San Lorenzo cafe serving Mexican-style coffee just expanded to Downtown Oakland. Marco Senghor from Bissap Baobab in the Mission is about to launch a new lunch menu under the moniker Baobab Cafe Amor. But first up, a Cal-Italian eatery just quietly opened on Alameda Point.
📍 2350 Saratoga St., Alameda
☎️ (510) 263-8232
Located in the Alameda Naval Base’s historic general store, Saltbreaker is the newest addition to an up-and-coming neighborhood that includes Almanac Beer Co. and C’Era Una Volta. The restaurant’s industrial digs feel cozy thanks to leafy flora and split pea soup-colored booths. The menu is broad in style—California cuisine might be the easiest descriptor—with Italian staples like burrata and French-inflected desserts like tarte au citron.
2. Dento Coffee & Wine
First spotted by WhatNowSF, Dento arrived in SoMa earlier this week. Coffee shop by day and wine bar also by day—it’s only open until 3 p.m. for now—Dento is a new project from the folks behind Sushi Sato and Izakaya Hon. It’s brewing exclusively single-origin Equator Coffee and will eventually become an all-day full-service restaurant.
3. Baobab Cafe Amor
Marco Senghor will debut a cafe within the vast storefront known as Bissap Baobab Village next Monday, Jan. 16. Each item on the menu at Baobab Cafe Amor pays tribute to an individual near and dear to Senghor’s heart. The “Caille 24,” BLTA shouts out cultural preservationist Erick Arguello, president of the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and an outspoken advocate for independent restaurateurs in the Mission. The rest of the cafe’s selection of sandwiches and beverages honors other loyal customers.
4. Brewja Coffee
San Lorenzo-based coffee shop Brewja Coffee just expanded to Oakland. Tucked inside the Financial Center building, just around the corner from 12th Street BART, the cafe brews fair-trade Mexican beans and serves hearty breakfast plates. Don’t sleep on the elote toast, or the Coquito iced coffee—it’s a Christmas tradition in Puerto Rico, where the holiday season jingles on through the end of January.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]