After an extremely short run in Woodbridge, the city of Detroit’s only Japanese pub Izakaya Katsu closed in June. But soon a new izakaya will moving in and take its place. The owners of Canton-based Izakaya Sanpei have taken over the lease at the corner of Trumbull Avenue and Putnam Street with plans to open BASH Original Izakaya.
Izakaya Sanpei is considered one of the best Japanese restaurants in metro Detroit with an extensive list of pub-style appetizers and a sushi bar. The restaurant was founded in the 1990s in Canton by three former employees of the Kyoto restaurant group. In 2014, local restaurateur Harold Kim acquired the business.
Kim tells Eater that he and three of his business partners began exploring the idea of opening an izakaya in Detroit last year around the time of Izakaya Katsu’s opening. The partners visited the Woodbridge restaurant on several occasions while it was open and observed some of the challenges — poor service, limited menu items, lack of signage, and inexperienced management — that ultimately contributed to the closure. When the restaurant went out of business, Kim reached out to Izakaya Katsu’s managing partner to discuss taking over the space.
BASH, whose name is comprised of the first letter of each partner’s name, will be the first location in what Kim hopes will become a small chain of four or five Japanese pub-style restaurants. The new owners are investing significantly in reorganizing and retooling the old Katsu kitchen. Kim says he’s investing roughly $100,000 in equipment, including purchasing two fryers. (Katsu had no frying equipment, despite serving a menu with fried food.)
The restaurant is also adding signage and ditching the hidden alley entrance. Kim says that a hard-to-locate entrance can be considered a signifier of an exciting dining experience in Japan, but “I just don’t see that as a big value in this setting in the United States.” The entrance will now be at the front of the restaurant along Trumbull Avenue. As for the dining room, Kim doesn’t plan to change it too much. He plans to keep the tatami-style seating area with a shoes-off policy; however, the seats will now have back supports for added comfort. In the spring, BASH will add a patio seating area with a beergarden component.
Diners can expect between 100 and 150 small, tapas-style dishes on the menu at BASH as well as a variety of Japanese craft beers. Look out for options like Japanese plum-infused jellyfish and takoyaki, a popular street food made from battered octopus. BASH’s chef James Kim is also bringing in fresh sashimi.
Izakaya Sanpei is known for hosting a bi-annual Tuna Festival, where a massive, sushi-grade bluefin tuna is brought into the restaurant. The partners plan to host a similar event for the opening of BASH in Woodbridge. If all goes according to plan, BASH is could open by Friday, November 15. Stay tuned for more updates.