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Legendary Japantown Restaurateur Behind Now-Closed Takara Returns With New Sushi Spot

Plus the wine country restaurateur accused of sexual misconduct will stay on the Freestone Hotel project team, and more intel

Takara owner Lena Turner stands next to the lantern sign in front of her restaurant Takara APILO
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

aTen months after the closure of her decades-old restaurant Takara, legendary Japantown restaurateur Lena Turner is poised to make a triumphant return to the neighborhood. KQED reports Turner will open Sushi Aoba, a 10- or 12-seat omakase restaurant in the former Kiss Seafood space, located on the northeast corner of Sutter and Laguna streets. Chef Sachio Kojima, who SF Weekly once called “the acknowledged master of sushi in San Francisco” during the 1990s, will head up the kitchen, turning out $165 multi-course menus of “sashimi, nigiri, and elegant appetizers like chawanmushi,” KQED says.

Turner has been a fixture of the Japantown restaurant community for four decades and opened the first restaurant in the Japan Center, Sapporo-ya Ramen, in 1976. But the pandemic disturbed her place as a pillar of the community with the closure of the 20-year-old Takara, a home-style Japanese restaurant located near the Hotel Kabuki. It shuttered in January 2021 due to a dispute with Turner’s landlord, Beverly Hills–based developer 3D Investments, who refused to offer tenants any rent relief or discount for the months when the Japantown Center mall was closed. [KQED]

Despite sexual misconduct allegations, wine country hotel project moves forward with partnership

Sebastopol restaurateur Lowell Sheldon will get to keep his job as a part of the team redeveloping the historic Freestone Hotel, partners Jeffrey Berlin and Noah Churma told the San Francisco Chronicle. The decision comes two months after the Chronicle brought to light allegations of sexual misconduct and a toxic workplace at several of Sheldon’s wine country businesses, all of which he has since been removed from as an owner. [SF Chronicle]

This 20-year-old Berkeley restaurant could close for good

According to Berkeleyside, the future is uncertain for Seabreeze Market and Deli, a family-owned diner located near the Berkeley Marina. The restaurant’s landlord has yet to offer a lease extension, and there are plans for improvements to the area, which could force Seabreeze to close. [Berkeleyside]

Mark your calendar: Here’s when Pliny the Younger returns

After a year of online sales only due to the pandemic, Russian River Brewing has announced that cult-favorite beer Pliny the Younger will once again be available for in person sales at the brewery’s Santa Rosa and Windsor brewpubs from February 4 to 17, per SFGate. [SFGATE]

This over-the-top Christmas pop-up bar serves “Yellow Snow”

Here’s another option for holiday cocktail drinking: Deck the Halls pop-up is open now in the Hungry I space on Columbus offering towering Christmas trees, paper-wrapped walls, and a cocktail called Yellow Snow (a slushie made with tequila, lemon, agave, and curacao). It’s open seven days a week; check out the menu on the Deck the Halls website.