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November 1, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Showa: Fremont’s former Kappo opens as izakaya

Remember when I told you about the debut of Tamura, Taichi Kitamura and Steve Tamura’s new sushi kappo in Eastlake? That’s when I first heard about plans to reinvent the former Kappo space in Fremont as an izakaya. Well, they’ve done it. And though some folks are already partying hearty in that second-story aerie — now known as Showa — the grand opening date is set for November 5.

Though it’s no longer a sanctuary for sushi bar serenity, fans of the original Chiso Kappo should still recognize the place. The wall between the sushi bar and private dining area was taken down, leaving a long narrow wide-open space, Taichi says. “I didn’t add too much to it.” In addition to a new lounge-like nook with chairs, ottomans and coffee tables, “I just extended the bar and purchased cocktail tables so people can sit higher. I want them to feel the energy of the kitchen.”

At Showa (701 N. 36th Street, Suite 200) in Fremont, you’ll find drinks, Japanese bar-food but no sushi!

They’ll serve no sushi, though you won’t have far to go for that. (Chiso, now under new ownership, is still rocking and rolling downstairs.) Instead, Showa’s menu highlights Japansese-style small plates, “like at a tapas bar,” Taichi says, with dishes averaging about $5 each. Expect tender, long-stewed meats like pork shoulder and stewed chicken wings, and a Japanese version of mac ‘n cheese. “That’s comfort food to me.”

Speaking of comfort foods, the menu will also emphasize oden, a cold-weather staple made with fishcake, daikon radish and fried tofu, among other ingredients. “I make good oden,” says the chef, noting, however, that while he’ll be lending oversight in the kitchen here, he’ll still be running the show on Eastlake.

Opening an izakaya is “something I always wanted to do,” insists Taichi. So, after the Kappo space languished on the restaurant real-estate market for 10 months — and he was able to train staff at Tamura (explaining, in part, the large crew behind the sushi counter and in the kitchen on Eastlake) — he decided to give it a go. “I was stuck with the lease, and have two years left on it,” he says. So his loss was also his gain. “It’s a place I can go after work at Tamura and hang out. And I want a lot of people from the [restaurant] industry to come hang out with me.”

Taichi and his crew, hard at work at Tamura.

Plans are to serve food Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. till 11:30 or midnight, depending on how busy it is, and cocktails till 1 a.m. And if you’re taken aback by the 80s-era soundtrack — starring Hall & Oates, Journey, “and cheesey lovesongs like `The Glory of Love‘ by Peter Cetera,” says Taichi, you know who to blame: Enamored by American pop culture, the chef grew up in Japan learning to speak English by watching American TV and singing along with Michael Jackson and company exhorting “We are the World.”

Don’t worry. Be Happy.

Showa is the time period when Hirohito was still the emperor,” Taichi recalls, “but my part of Showa” — the end of an era, which he likens to 1950s America after WWII — “was when everyone was happy, and the economy was great.”

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