Soapdish: Kaze stretches OTR foodie landscape

It is no secret that Over the Rhine has become the go-to dining spot for gourmands in search of the latest in hip, urban culinary sensations. While Daniel Wright’s flagship Senate laid the groundwork in a once desolate corridor of urban decay, the more relatively recent additions of Mayberry, the Anchor OTR, a Tavola, Taste of Belgium—Belgian Bistro, Bakersfield OTR and the Senate’s sister restaurant Abigail Street (now helmed by famed local chef Jose Salazar) have only stoked the white hot flames of restaurant glory in this historic neighborhood.

As if compelled by some gastronomic manifest destiny, these establishments continue to pioneer their way further North, chiefly on Vine and Race streets, with the latest addition being the absolutely stunning, industrial chic gastropub known as Kaze.   

Located in the architecturally significant 1903 structure known as the Color Paint building, the entire ground floor space and rear garage has been reclaimed for the latest addition to the neighborhood’s foodie landscape.

Jon Zipperstein, who has an established record of suburban success with Embers and Trio in Kenwood, joined forces with former Embers chef Hideki Harada to launch their version of a Japanese “Izakaya”or gastropub, a concept premised on sake, craft beer and small plates to accompany them. Harada brings an impressive resume to the venture, having trained at Nobu, along with tours of duty at Embers and Boca, and most recently having served a stint in Osaka, Japan with Sushi Roku.

The bar at Kaze had a soft opening this past Friday, and the main restaurant space is slated to open Jan. 14. In the interim, patrons can sample a smaller version of the menu available in the lounge/bar. Japanese inspired sliders, sushi (including an OTR Roll) and buns are available, among other items, as well as an addictive version of edamame hummus with taro and sweet potato chips  

This past weekend saw an adventurous crowd of bar hoppers make the trek north on Vine, with a short jog down 14th Street, where an almost speakeasy-style entrance to the lounge fronts the glass façade, directly across from a closed-off alleyway. 

Inside, the industrial style space features high ceilings dominated by two enormous red silk light fixtures, which bathe the lounge in a warm glow. TVs mounted in the wall broadcast an array of Japanese TV shows, pop culture and Godzilla flicks, while stacks of sake barrels climb the wall behind the bar. In short, the space looks fantastic and really raises the bar for our local restaurant scene.

All told, this will be by far the biggest restaurant of the “new wave” of restaurants to open in OTR. With seating for around 100 in the restaurant, the lounge can handle an additional 60 or so, plus an outdoor biergarten (still under construction) which will have another full bar as well as seating for an additional 40 diners. The full menu will be available in the bar, and they plan to be open for dinner seven days a week.

Interestingly enough, Core Resources, the construction company that renovated the building, was so impressed with what was going on in the neighborhood that they decided to relocate their corporate office and 31 employees from Anderson Township to the upper floors of the building.

Add up the score, and you get two businesses based in the suburbs establishing footholds in just one Over the Rhine structure. Not a bad ratio.

Not to be outdone, Kaze’s neighbor Quan Hapa, brought to you by the fine folks from Pho Lang Tang, will be opening their cozy, “Asian street food” restaurant this Friday, establishing something of an incongruous Asian beachhead in one little block of OTR. Add to that the expected opening of tapas and wine bar Zula next month, and it’s clear that the feverish restaurant buzz in OTR has no intention of slowing down.

Photos by Scott Beseler

Kaze photos from top: Facade, sake sangria, Kaze Bar, "Chef" roll, Kaze Bar, Nuevo California Roll, main dining room wall

Read more articles by Casey Coston.

Soapbox columnist Casey Coston, a former corporate bankruptcy and restructuring attorney, is now involved in real estate development and construction in and around Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton as Vice President at Urban Expansion. He's also a civic activist and founder of a number of local groups, including the Urban Basin Bicycle Club, the Cincinnati Stolen Bike Network, the World Famous OTR Ping Pong League and LosantiTours: An Urban Exploration Company.
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