Detroiters longing for a Japanese dining experience beyond sushi are in luck. A new izakaya-style restaurant serving small batch sakes is headed for the Milwaukee Junction area near New Center and the North End. Husband and wife team Geoff and Fumie Sypitkowski are behind the Japanese tavern concept called Miwaki.
"It's a niche that largely is unfilled in Detroit."
The couple met in Tokyo in 2003 while Geoff was working in Japan. Since moving back to Detroit have longed for a dining experience similar to those they loved enjoyed while living in Tokyo. "Izakaya is one [type of restaurant] that we used to frequent quite a bit when we were living in Japan together and it's a niche that largely is unfilled in Detroit," Geoff says. The couple envision bringing that "intimate" Japanese gastropub experience to Miwaki with small plates-style dishes with "maybe a little bit of a Detroit edge to them." The pair recently recruited a chef from the area after advertising extensively in Japanese publications in Detroit, Chicago, and New York.
In addition to Japanese cuisine, the couple has also established an import company that will allow them to bring in sakes from Japan that aren't yet available in the area. Fumie, a certified kikizakeshi or sake sommelier, will be responsible for developing sake pairings at Miwaki and curating the restaurant's small sake retail area. The Sypitkowski's also hope to foster a strong sense of hospitality among staff based on the robust Japanese tradition of service etiquette known as omotenashi.
The restaurant will be approximately 1,500-square-feet located in the Pappas warehouse building on East Milwaukee. Miwaki is expected to seat between 60 and 70 diners with traditional tatami mat seating area, a 10 to 15-seat bar, and 40 seats at tables. Though designs are still in the process of being finalized, the aesthetics will likely embrace some of the raw warehouse elements while also including modern and classic Japanese-style design described as simple, with "clean lines, and harmony with the environment."
The Sypitowskis are currently in the process of obtaining a class C liquor license and finalizing their financing. They hope to complete their buildout in time for an opening in the fourth quarter of this 2016. Stay tuned.