There's something about sitting down to a beer and a bowl of stale pretzels that rubs Scott Kim the wrong way. "In most Asian countries, people don't drink without eating," says the Korean-born chef-restaurateur. "No matter how humble or upscale a bar may be, there's always an assortment of good things to eat with your sake or beer."
Thus was born Kim's newest endeavor, the sleek Sasa Matsu, which he launched last month on Shaker Square. (His previous Van Aken spot, Matsu, shuttered in September.) Izakaya is the technical term for this tapas-style dining, but just think of it as gourmet bar snacks, Asian-style. That means small plates like savory Korean short ribs ($11), charcoal-grilled and served with Kim's contemporary take on kimchee; or The Rock ($13), sliced beef tenderloin that guests can broil tableside on a superheated ceramic stone.
Then there's the Sasa Fries ($6), perfectly crisped Yukon Gold potatoes, piled into an edible bowl made from spring-roll wrappers and seasoned with paprika, spices, and two types of nori, forming what has to be the most addictive nosh in town. To wash it down, the bar offers Japanese beers in bottles and on draft, a full cocktail menu, and a substantial wine list, with all bottles pegged at just $10 over retail.
Dinner begins at 5 p.m. daily; dim sum-style Sunday brunch runs from noon to 3 p.m. Find Sasa Matsu at 13120 Shaker Square, 216-767-1111, or www.sasamatsu.com.
New life for Lozada's: Restaurateurs Lucrecia Santiago and Joel Bolanos have opened a second outpost of Villa y Zapata (8505 Madison Avenue), in the former Lozada's space at 1909 West 25th Street. Expect the same moderately priced menu of Mexican fare that you'll find at the Madison Avenue location, but don't hope for a Tecate to go with it: So far, the restaurant hasn't snagged a liquor license. Until it does, it's lunch only, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; call 216-574-9070 for more info.
Sad tortillas: A Tremont staple since 1996, La Tortilla Feliz closes on Saturday, December 29. According to a manager, business at the Central American restaurant has been "up and down." No plans yet for a new eatery at that location.