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Sake and Shochu Will Be Focus of New Oakland Tasting Room

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Umami Mart 2.0 will pour Japanese beer, sake, and shochu

Umami Mart/Facebook

Opening a tasting room has always been the plan for Umami Mart, Oakland’s beautiful shop dedicated to imported Japanese glassware, bar tools, and kitchen supplies — plus bottles of Japanese beer, sake, whiskey, and shochu. This coming spring, owners Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano plan to move their shop from Old Oakland to Temescal so it can finally pour some of those drinks.

If all goes well, the new Umami Mart will land at 4027 Broadway, on the same block as Teni East Kitchen and Clove and Hoof. The former Broadway Burrito space has been totally gutted, with Anders Arhoj of Copenhagen’s Studio Arhoj designing Umami Mart’s new bar to match the shop’s usual minimalist, white-and-wood aesthetic.

Umami Mart fans can expect the new spot to be roughly the same size — about 1,200 square feet — with the same selection of products. The key difference will be a small tasting room cordoned off in the back of the shop, with a bar, six stools, and one tap rotating between beer and sake. While Umami Mart will be able to pour full servings of beer, sake, and some shochus, it won’t try to feel like a neighborhood bar.

“We don’t want to call it a bar because we don’t want to come off like we’re going to be open until 2 a.m.,” Akabori says.

Akabori plans to open the tasting room portion on a limited basis at first — probably just weekends — and depending on things go, expand it to Thursday through Sunday until 9 p.m. The idea is to offer a more educational experience. Adding to that, the owners are trying to get an instructional license to offer sample pours — a quarter of an ounce — of distilled alcohol with the distributor or maker present. (In other words, no cocktails.) Akabori says it’ll be a similar setup to Oakland’s Alchemy Bottle Shop or the natural wine shop Minimo. While the new tasting room won’t prepare any hot food, it might have some Japanese snacks available.

Akabori says she’s excited to host weekly events and tastings at the new Umami Mart, since currently, all of Umami Mart’s alcohol-related events have had to take place offsite, like at the Trappist or Ramen Shop. She’s also looking forward to growing Umami Mart’s sake and shochu selection — she’s a certified shochu advisor and Kumano is a certified sake specialist.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun talking to our customers. People are always asking if they can do tastings, so they’ll be able to learn more,” Akabori says. “It’s been hard for people to wrap their heads around shochu — for them to be able to taste the shochu will be a huge step.”

It’s been a lengthy and tricky process aligning all of Umami Mart’s various licenses — and it’s still possible the whole plan could fall through. The shop is in the midst of a 30-day public comment period, where folks in the neighborhood could voice concerns. Akabori pointed to the recently canceled plans for Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned Golden Road brewery, right around the corner. “We know the neighborhood definitely cares about who goes into their neighborhood,” she says.