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Japanese-Jewish Restaurant Blends Cuisines || Eat Seeker


– We went to Japan and
ate a lot of food together, and I think that kind
of clicked in his head that he wants to do something with me. We came back and then he was like, “I wanna open a restaurant with you,” and I was like, “Really?” (laughter) OK. We didn’t want it to be just
Jewish or just Japanese, so we kind of decided
just put it together. – Make it a collaboration. – Yeah. (upbeat music) (customers mumbling) I grew up eating Japanese food, so my flavor probably comes
with all the Japanese food that my mom used to make for me. – Having grown up in New
York in a Jewish family, I ate a lot of Jewish food. A lot of corned beef,
pastrami, lox, rye bread. We were dating, and we were
just cooking for each other. – And we kind of started to realize there’s a lot of ingredients that crosses and flavors also were kinda… This works. (jazzy music) – I probably knew more about Japanese food than Sawa knew about Jewish
food, but when we first opened, there were some key ideas that we had that we thought would fit well. Japanese people love cured
salmon and so do Jewish people, and so we sorta did our take on chirashi, raw fish over rice, cured it
more like a Jewish-style lox, and then garnished it with
some things that are Japanese and then some things that
are more Jewish, like capers. It adds a little texture; it’s not something you
would see in Japanese food. (instrumental folk music) And then also challah is a
traditional Jewish bread and then– – Yeah, I’ve seen it somewhere and then like, oh, why can’t we just add this sake kasu into the challah dough and bake it. It’s a sake lees, you know,
leftover, when you strain sake. It has such a good sake aroma to it, and it makes the bread
smells like nice and sweet when it’s baked. (instrumental hip-hop music) I grew up in Hiroshima, so Hiroshima okonomiyaki
is the Japanese pancake. And there’s so many
styles that you could get, but all version is cabbage,
bean sprouts, onion, and mix it in the batter. And we top it with the
sauce, okonomi sauce, that we make own and it
could be mayo or sauerkraut and pastrami and our
nori and bonito flakes. – [Aaron] I don’t think anybody
would top it with pastrami and sauerkraut in Japan.
– Probably not. – Because it literally
means how you like it, we’re like, well this
is how we would do it. (upbeat music) – [Sawa] Before I met Aaron, I think I had matzo balls maybe twice, but he served me one, and it was delicious. – I always really liked, when I was a kid, to have as much noodle, in
my mom’s matzo ball soup, as possible. So, we started thinking, well, what kind of noodle would
be good for the soup? It’s more or less like my mom’s recipe, but we’ve adapted it a little bit. Like my mom would never
put a giant piece of kombu in her chicken soup, but we do here. I think a lot of people grew
up with their own stories that they wanna tell through their food and through their restaurants. It could be that one parent
was from this country, another parent was from that country, or they were born somewhere
and then moved to New York and lived in a neighborhood
that was full of some people who were from some other
completely different culture and that influences them,
but I think that people, when they start telling their own story, it’s not so clean-cut. – And you are what you eat, right? I mean, you put food in
your body and that’s your… Like makes you, so. – We pulled an old guidebook
from New York from 1983, and it listed that their was a restaurant called Shalom Japan. It’s kosher and they serve
sushi and matzo ball soup, and then someone gets up on stage and tells campy Jewish-Japanese jokes. And then we laughed and we were like, “Ah, if we ever open a restaurant, we should call it Shalom Japan.” – Yeah, I think [the] name stuck. – [Aaron] There’s sort of
an homage to the old place. We thought, also, like
it was a representative of sort of who we were. I think a lot of people
come in with skepticism. I mean, we are in Williamsburg, so I think people think that
there’s an irony to what we do, but we try to be pretty genuine. – Food has to be good, you
know, that’s the bottom line. And we want to eat it pretty
much every day, you know? We want to make sure
everybody enjoys the food. And when we hear the people
were like, we weren’t sure, but we came and then it was really good, that’s like the answer we love to hear. – Yeah. (instrumental music)

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