An all-in-one destination for Japanese food that’s just emerging in the East Village is an ambitious enterprise from the team behind Beshock Ramen, whose flagship noodle shop opened on Market Street in 2016. Landing around the corner on 14th Street where they’re sharing the former Melvin Brewing space are three distinct businesses that each convey a different aspect of Japanese cuisine.
The largest storefront belongs to Asa Bakery, a sidewalk-facing cafe that owner Ayaka Ito says is inspired by her hometown of Nagoya, Japan which is known for its kissaten, or coffee shop, culture. Offering coffee and espresso drinks as well as matcha and hojicha lattes featuring organic Japanese tea, its in-house bakery turns out a wide range of Japanese bread and pastries, from the iconic Japanese sweet bread called melon pan to baguettes spread with mentaiko (salty fish roe) and various sozai pan, which are soft buns with savory fillings like sausage and pizza toppings. Ito tells Eater that Asa’s menu will extend to include Japanese sandos and homestyle dishes like curry rice and omurice, and the cafe will eventually serve coffee cocktails in the evening.
Behind a secret door hidden in the right wall of the bakery is Bar Kamon, a speakeasy that transports guests back to Japan in the 1920s. Designed by co-owner Masaki Yamauchi, the bar’s Taisho-era look reflects the period in Japan when traditionalism and modernism first converged, a style that also influenced the popular Japanese manga series, Demon Slayer.
Yamauchi, Ito, and bar manager Brett Grimsman spent time in some of the best bars in Kyoto to create Bar Kamon’s cocktail list, which includes Negronis made with hojicha-infused gin and Old Fashioneds sweetened with sugar smoked on cypress wood. A certified sake sommelier, Ito says the bar will focus on Japanese-made alcohol, including a selection from Tokyo’s Honkaku Spirits which specializes in koji-based spirits such as shochu and awamori.
A door in the back of the bakery leads to Sushi Gaga, a cozy 10-seat, omakase-only sushi bar that opens Saturday, September 15. Reservations are launching soon for its dinners, which will be offered at only one seating per night. Spanning nearly 20 items, the multi-course meal will include appetizers, nigiri, sashimi, and chawanmushi as well as noodles and ramen broth from Beshock.