October 23, 2021

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Is Food In You

Two sister dining establishments underneath a person roof: Koma and Kanpai Sushi merge functions in Palo Alto | Peninsula Foodist | The Peninsula Foodist

5 min read

With the Menlo Park place slated for enhancement, the mainstay loved ones restaurant retains its menu and personnel with shift to new location

By Sara Hayden

Right after 20 decades in Menlo Park, Koma Sushi now has a new house a few minutes absent in Palo Alto, at sister restaurant Kanpai Sushi.


A platter of Amaebi, tuna, albacore, yellowtail tuna, salmon, surf clam, scallop and squid sashimi, served with fried Amaebi heads on a mattress of shredded daikon radish, at Kanpai Sushi in Palo Alto. (Photograph by Magali Gauthier)

The constructing that housed Koma Sushi in Menlo Park is becoming demolished to make way for the blended-use Allied Arts improvement.

“It truly is sad that we have to transfer out of a area we’ve been at for a very extensive time. But it is also enjoyable that we’re starting off a new chapter,” proprietor Koichi Baba suggests.


The exterior of Kanpai Sushi in Palo Alto. (Picture by Magali Gauthier)

In downtown Palo Alto, Koma Sushi consumers can anticipate to nonetheless uncover their favorites at the 330 Lytton Avenue location. All the things will be less than the Kanpai Sushi title, but both of those Koma and Kanpai will maintain their respective teams and menus, showcasing sushi, sashimi, udon, teriyaki, tempura, sake and far more.

“The identify is going to be different, but … I want to make guaranteed (buyers) can see the same people operating here, including myself,” Baba states. “All the workforce are buddies with common clients.”

This is just not Koma Sushi’s very first move. The cafe was originally situated across the Dumbarton Bridge at the Fremont Hub purchasing heart, where by Koma Sushi opened in March of 1977.

“That was one of the oldest Japanese eating places about Newark, Hayward and Fremont in the Tri-Town location,” Baba says.


Kanpai Sushi proprietor Koichi Baba prepares sushi at the Palo Alto restaurant on September 7th, 2021. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Baba recalls 1st hearing about the Bay Region cafe when he was living in Tokyo, heading to faculty at evening to study how to make sushi. A person he satisfied experienced a link to Koma Sushi’s first proprietor in the United States. By that time, Baba had now been an trade scholar to the U.S. twice, with stints studying at the College of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and San Jose State University. He was eager to return.

“It truly is been a aspiration for me, since my higher school yrs. I always needed to arrive to the United States and open a Japanese sushi cafe,” Baba says.

Koma Sushi’s unique proprietor, Riyoko Lingerfelt, instructed Baba there wasn’t even a BART line simply because the restaurant’s place was so considerably afield at that time. Yet, Baba arrived to operate for “Riyoko-san.”


A clip from the 1977 Argus newspaper report on pioneering restauranteur Riyoko Lingerfelt. (Graphic by using Newspapers.com)

“She’s a legend essentially. She’s a extremely tricky, solid girl. Again then, functioning and owning a cafe as a woman was a hard factor, I feel. Even now, and especially back again then. Lots of ladies weren’t executing that,” Baba says.

In 1977, The Argus newspaper described that Lingerfelt labored in dining places her total existence, beginning in Japan at her parents’ restaurant, and then continuing in the Bay Space where by she ran Koma Sushi with her sister Sumako Kinoshita. They did not have a microwave oven, but they experienced a cook dinner, and a good friend who assisted them make tailor made “koma” sport pieces to decorate the cafe.

Lingerfelt told the paper, “I imagined I knew every little thing about the cafe enterprise when I resolved to get started my very own.” She laughed, and ongoing, “But I was wrong. I’ve uncovered a lot given that then, and I continue to have a ton to study. It is not easy.”

The reporter asked Lingerfelt why she selected Fremont, to which she responded there were being no other Japanese eating places there.

“Of system, lack of competitors is no ensure of results, but with her attraction and culinary capacity, Riyoko just could possibly make it!” the write-up concluded.

And she did. When Riyoko-san was completely ready to retire from the restaurant, Baba took above, and operated in the Fremont area for a lot more than a 10 years.

“We had a quite classic, previous-fashioned Japanese food stuff menu, like sukiyaki that you almost hardly ever see suitable now,” Baba suggests.


Kanpai Sushi’s dragon roll has shrimp tempura and avocado within and is topped with eel, in Palo Alto. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

When their Fremont creating was demolished, Baba relocated Koma Sushi to Menlo Park and advanced the menu, specializing in sushi and much more versions of fish.

Because then, Baba and his wife, Noriko, have opened one more restaurant in Portola Valley, and introduced a fusion menu at Kanpai Sushi in Palo Alto. Koma Sushi turned a favored of Flea Road owner Jesse Awesome, and a very long-standing family members most loved. The Babas have witnessed some clients grow up there.

“They applied to come listed here with little youngsters. Now they are all adults, some have children. Searching at the family historical past of the standard prospects, I’m so proud,” Baba suggests.

Baba states he at first prepared to retire after operating the small business for far more than 30 yrs, but he plans to continue to keep with it now, carrying on the spirit of a restaurant that’s now into its 44th calendar year of continuous procedure.

“It is really like we are starting a new chapter in our heritage,” he says.


Kanpai Sushi owners Noriko and Koichi Baba in the Palo Alto restaurant. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Koma Sushi is now a section of Kanpai Sushi at 330 Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto. Friends can dine at the restaurant indoors or out. Supply and takeout are also out there.

Kanpai Sushi // 330 Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto 650.325.2696

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