Yoshi's San Francisco won't be going by that name for much longer. This month, the enormous Fillmore Japanese restaurant and jazz club underwent an ownership shuffle, with owners Yoshie Akiba and Kaz Kajimura selling their stakes to longtime minority owner Michael E. Johnson and his newly formed company, Fillmore Live Entertainment Group. (Akiba and Kajimura continue to own the Yoshi's in Oakland.) Despite a $7.2 million loan from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, the club had never been able to succeed in its current incarnation, and Johnson tells Inside Scoop that he plans to shake things up significantly—beginning in the food department.
Sometime this fall, Yoshi's will shut down and reopen as a casual Californian restaurant, dropping its Japanese fare and changing its name (still TBD). Bob Burke (of Ovation Consulting, which has worked with Boulevard, Epic Roasthouse, and The Forge, among others) and director of operations Reza Esmaili (Long Bar) will lead the makeover, with a chef still yet to be determined. "Not everyone wants sushi," Johnson told The New Fillmore earlier this month. "Nopa, now that's the kind of restaurant we would want." The challenge is the enormous space: at 240 seats, with one of the largest restaurant kitchens in the city, the revamped Yoshi's will be three times the size of Nopa. Nonetheless, Johnson is confident that he can score "someone notable from the Bay Area" to run the show in the kitchen, and that he can knock down prices 20-25 percent from the Yoshi's days.
Simultaneously, the team is working on new plans for the 400-seat music venue and drinks. While jazz will still be a portion of the offering, Johnson wants to tilt the focus towards world music and singer-songwriters, as well as local bands. There are also plans to put in two new bars, one of which will be a cocktail bar on the second floor. We'll have more on Yoshi's new name and new culinary focus as they're revealed.
· With Yoshi's changing of guard, what's next on the menu? [Chron]
· A new era begins at Yoshi's [The New Fillmore]
· New owners of Yoshi's S.F. say 'sayonara' to jazz, Japanese food [SFBT]