Diners who make the short descent into Ginko, the subterranean sushi bar beneath Dante likely will feel like they've entered a foreign land. That's by design, says chef and owner Dante Boccuzzi – and also why the project is a few years late.
"I wanted the restaurant to have a true Japanese feeling that you recognize the moment you walk in," explains Boccuzzi while examining the nearly completed space. "The details caused a lot of delays."
The snug cavern is decked out like a Tokyo-style sushi bar: red lacquered walls, shiny black bartops, blown-glass pendant lights, and traditional Japanese doorway curtains fashioned from kimonos. A spectacular wall-size art piece of backlit colored glass was designed by Boccuzzi's partner/artist Giancarlo Calicchia. Arcade games and Godzilla flicks will provide the atmospheric backdrop.
The majority of the small room is taken up by a large horseshoe-shaped sushi bar, which accommodates 30 diners. A river of water will flow just beneath the glass-topped counter. The only additional seating in the room is at two booths and two high-tops.
"This is set up for sushi dining," notes Boccuzzi. "The challenge will be to have people eat and get out."
Ginko's Japanese-born sushi chefs, Taishi Noma and Koji Matsumoto, are the only ones in the city, according to Boccuzzi. To lure them here, he ran ads in a Japanese language magazine. While the sushi chefs are more traditional when it comes to preparation, Boccuzzi admits that he likes a little flair.
"My training is Nobu (celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa's international group of trendsetting Japanese restaurants), and I want to capture that level of style and excitement," he says. "These guys are more traditional, but they are open to suggestions. We came up with some good compromises between our styles."
All three agreed that there is no place for cream cheese on a sushi menu.
In addition to seafood-based starters like tuna tartar, tempura fish rolls, and scallop-topped Pringles (yep, those Pringles), the menu is filled with sushi, sashimi, rolls, hand rolls, and specialty items like roasted duck and foie gras sushi. Shabu-shabu, a sort of Japanese fondue, will be available only at the specially equipped booths.
Booze consists of warm and chilled sake, Asian beers, and Asian-themed cocktails. No wine will be on the list.
Once it opens sometime this week, Ginko will serve dinner Tuesday through Saturday and lunch on Fridays only.
Gingko is at 2247 Professor Ave. in Tremont. For more information, call 216-274-1200 or see danteboccuzzi.com.
Pete Joyce is out: Just a week after unveiling the new, more contemporary Bistro on Lincoln Park, chef Pete Joyce is out of a job at the restaurant he helped launch nearly three years ago.
"I had a difference of opinion with my partner, Andrew Harding," he says.
Joyce describes his former position as one of "sweat equity partner," whereby he provided talent and labor in lieu of financial contribution, a common arrangement in restaurants.
Cory Hess, on-and-off sous chef since opening day, will be promoted to the executive chef position.
As for Joyce, a veteran chef whose long Cleveland career has included stints at Pier W and Blue Point Grille, life goes on. "I'd really like to do my own thing again," he says. "And next time," he adds, "I'm going casual.
The Bistro on Lincoln Park is at 2391 West 11th St. in Tremont. Call 216-862-2969 for more information.