Niku Steakhouse, The Butcher Shop By Niku Steakhouse And Udon Time
Wine industry veterans Emmanuel Kemiji and Brian Kulich join the dream team at soon-to-open Niku Steakhouse, which will have an innovative wine-by-the-glass program; The Butcher Shop to be San Francisco’s only Japanese Kobe beef retailer.
Omakase Restaurant Group will open Niku Steakhouse, The Butcher Shop by Niku, and Udon Time under one roof at One Henry Adams in San Francisco’s SoMa District before the end of the year. The newest additions to the team at the steakhouse are award-winning Master Sommelier and consultant Emmanuel Kemiji, Lead Sommelier Brian Kulich and General Manager Francesca Cunningham. They join Niku Steakhouse Executive Chef Steve Brown, founder of the Wagyu-centric supper club Cosecha SD in San Diego, and Head Butcher Guy Crims, an industry veteran who will oversee the meat program at both Niku and The Butcher Shop.
Each dining concept at One Henry Adams offers a distinctive culinary perspective, price point and atmosphere. Udon Time, which will be the first to open, is a fast-casual udon soup shop under the direction of Chef Edgar Agbayani. It will be followed quickly by the opening of The Butcher Shop by Niku Steakhouse, a service-focused butcher shop featuring Japanese Wagyu and domestic meats personally curated by Crims. The last to open will be Niku Steakhouse, a modern American steakhouse with Japanese influences. All three concepts offer direct views of the food preparation process, making for an exciting, transparent experience.
Kumiji and Kulich have brought together unique perspectives to create an exciting and extensive wine program offering more than 100 wines from California, Washington and Oregon—all available by the glass. The wine program will also offer up to 15 sparkling wines and Champagne.
“These wines constitute the finest products from each region in terms of quality and value,” said Kemiji. “We have devised a system to keep wines fresh after opening so that more guests can have access to brands and varietals they might normally not be able to try.”
Emmanuel Kemiji is a graduate of the University of California at Davis, where he studied Economics, Spanish Literature, and Viticulture and Oenology. After graduation, he worked for the famed wine merchant, Corti Brothers, under the direction of Darrell Corti and long-time White House wine consultant, David Berkley. In 1988, he was named Director of Wine & Spirits at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, then The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. In 1989, he became the 12th American to pass the Master Sommelier exam in London, and, in the same year, received the “Sommelier of the Year” award by the California Restaurant Writers Association. In 1995, with Miura Vineyards, he became the first sommelier to establish a commercial winery in the U.S. In 2000, San Francisco Chronicle named him one of the “10 Winemakers to Watch.”
Brian Kulich, an Advanced Sommelier CMS, has curated extensive wine lists for Charlie Palmer Group, including 500 producers for Charlie Palmer Steak Napa and 100 producers for Palmer’s newest Napa property, Sky & Vine. In 2016, Kulich was the assistant general manager at Kenzo Estate, where he helped open Kenzo. In addition, Kulich was the senior captain at three-Michelin-star The Restaurant at Meadowood and former director of operations/beverage director at OSO Sonoma, which made San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 shortly after it opened in 2014. Kulich has also worked at Aqua and Boulevard in San Francisco.
Francesca Cunningham, a veteran server at Boulevard in San Francisco, has been named general manager of Niku. Cunningham has an extensive background in wine, having completed Level 3 WSET through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and Olfaction Certification Level 1 and Level 2 with Alexandre Schmitt. She has also worked as a sourcing manager at CustomVine, a custom wine production company, as events server at The Battery and as wine buyer at Block122. She has an MS in human resource management and organizational development from the University of San Francisco. Cunningham has a special connection with ORG because she trained Co-Owner Kash Feng and Director of Operations Jean Francisco while all three were at Roy’s in San Francisco.
More about Niku Steakhouse
Forget conventional steak and potatoes: Under the guidance of Chef Brown, Niku is offering fresh, tasting-menu-forward meals. As a point of differentiation, diners will find seasonal farmers market fare, foraged ingredients, and a carefully sourced portfolio of domestic and imported meat. Brown makes his own sausages, ages meats in-house and is crafting an extensive charcuterie program—all part of the restaurant’s nose-to-tail program. He’s also making his own kimchi, fermented vegetables and koji.
One of the restaurant’s signature items will be a Japanese Wagyu beef jerky flight, made with beef from the center cut. “Customers will see the marbling of the meat,” said Brown. “When we hang the flight, it will resemble a stained-glass window.”
Crims and Brown have toured Japan extensively, both together and separately, fostering relationships with some of the country’s top farms, including Urban Farm in Yokohama, which was one of the first Japanese farms to bring Wagyu to the U.S., and Ono Farms in the Hyogo prefecture, which is providing its Wagyu as an exclusive to the steakhouse and butcher shop.
With less than 60 seats, including a private dining area that seats ten to 15 people and counter-style seating for ten to 12 guests, Niku Steakhouse will offer a boutique dining experience with high-touch service. Along one side of the restaurant will be a lighted floor-to-ceiling bar with an international collection of whiskies and a separate floor-to-ceiling wine wall that acts as a screen for a cozy private dining area. The focal point of the dining room will be a dramatic open kitchen showcasing a custom-made binchotan charcoal grill. Niku will be one of the only restaurants in the Bay Area to offer kappo-style service, where guests are seated at a counter facing the grill area and can observe the chefs as they cook and interact with them at eye level. The interior design brings together a variety of natural elements—dark wood, stone and polished concrete—to create a space that looks sleek and modern but feels intimate and romantic.
Brown and Crims met Chef Jackson Yu, co-founder of Omakase Restaurant Group, in 2017 on an educational tour sponsored by the Japanese Beef Council that explored the process, practices and production of Japan’s treasured A5 Wagyu and A5 Kobe beef. The three struck up a friendship and, since then, have collaborated on events around that world that have showcased their expertise.
More about The Butcher Shop by Niku Steakhouse
Located adjacent to Niku Steakhouse, The Butcher Shop is one of only five retailers in North America authorized to sell Japanese Kobe beef and the only retailer in San Francisco to sell Japanese Kobe beef. Earlier this year, Crims flew to Japan to secure the largest retail order of Japanese A5 Kobe and Wagyu beef in the Western hemisphere.
In addition to offering Japanese Kobe, the butcher shop also offers domestic Wagyu from Imperial Wagyu in Nebraska, which is some of the finest beef available in the U.S., USDA Prime beef from Nebraska (fresh and dry-aged), Heritage Berkshire Kurobuta pork from Iowa and USDA Choice Superior Farms lamb from California. There are no other known butcher shops in the U.S. that offer such a comprehensive nose-to-tail retail program under one roof and are fully integrated with a neighboring steakhouse.
“I’ve traveled the world, not only to educate myself, but to educate our customers about the practices and production of each item in the case,” said Crims, who personally selects every cut and has visited every farm and distributor.
The butcher shop will provide a wide range of price points and cuts, from classic Porterhouse and rib-eye, to A5 Wagyu and Kobe off cuts. Customers may request a custom cut of any thickness or quantity, and all meats can be vacuum sealed at no additional cost. Meats can also be pre-seasoned with the butcher shop’s own seasoning or with a guest’s selected seasoning. Customers can order from a daily butcher’s choice sandwich menu, which are available for takeout only. The shop also doubles as a private dining experience for the steakhouse after service hours.
This jewel box of a butcher shop will display its meats in gleaming, see-through refrigerators, visible from the street and the steakhouse. It will also house a small retail store that includes Lodge cast iron pans, knives from respected American knife maker Mike Solaegui, spices, a curated selection of bottled whiskey and small-production wines made by local chefs and sommeliers. In the future, the butcher shop will host “Butcher’s Counter” events with internationally acclaimed chefs and butchers.
More about Udon Time
Udon Time is a high-quality, fast-casual noodle shop where diners can customize their udon soup bowls as they move down the service line. Udon Time will feature a slender udon noodle that has been aged overnight, as is typical in Japan, to create a silky-smooth texture and rich flavor. House-made broths, as well as a variety of fresh proteins and traditional Japanese toppings, will be prepared daily. To develop the Udon Time menu, Chef Agbayani toured Japan extensively and trained at Sanuki Menki Noodle School in Kagawa, Japan, where he learned about the various Japanese noodle types and how to prepare each one with its corresponding sauce and broth.
Highlights from the menu include Niku Udonwith sweet onions, ginger, green onion, and selected meat from the steakhouse, Kamatma Udon with jidori egg, soy sauce, parmesan and butter, and Sanuki Udon with fortified broth, green onion, wakame and tempura flakes. The bright, naturally lit space seats 41 guests and spotlights an open kitchen layout with a Sanuki noodle maker.
Niku Steakhouse, The Butcher Shop by Niku Steakhouse, and Udon Time are located at One Henry Adams in San Francisco. For updates, please visit www.nikusteakhouse.com, www.nikubutchershop.com, and www.udontime.com.
About Omakase Restaurant Group
Owned by Kash Feng and Jackson Yu, Omakase Restaurant Group (ORG) comprises eight San Francisco restaurants: Niku Steakhouse, The Butcher Shop by Niku, Udon Time (all opening in 2018), Dumpling Time, Live Sushi Bar, Michelin-starred Omakase, Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient Okane, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.