Its four eating places are closed however Oakland Chef Chikara Ono remains to be busy
Due to the pandemic, Oakland restaurateur Chikara Ono closed the doors at AS B-Dama, Delage, Masabaga and Utzutzu, but the chef was able to continue serving his food through a partnership at Berkeley Bowl West until he can reopen his restaurants. Photo: Momo Chang
Chikara Ono has brought some of the best Japanese dishes to the East Bay, with restaurants like AS B-Dama, Delage, and Masabaga in Oakland and Utzutzu in Alameda. During the pandemic, all of Ono’s stationary restaurants have gone dark. However, the Oakland-based Japanese-American chef is still busy developing new concepts and throwing pop-ups of food from his temporarily closed restaurants at Berkeley Bowl West.
Originally from Kyushu, Japan, Ono moved to the United States in 1986. He was a student at the time and was working as a cook in a South Bay restaurant. He later graduated from Community College and returned to Japan, where he worked in traditional Japanese kaiseki restaurants for several years.
Ono returned to the Bay Area in the mid-1990s when his former boss asked him to return and work at Kisaku, a now-closed Japanese restaurant in San Mateo. He worked there as a chef for more than 10 years before deciding to open his own restaurant in Oakland. Ono co-founded and owned Geta near Piedmont Avenue for more than five years. (He is no longer busy with Geta.)
In 2012, Ono opened B-Dama, an izakaya restaurant on Piedmont Avenue. Two years later it moved and became a counter-service izakaya in Swan’s Marketplace in Old Oakland, where Ono changed its name to AS B-Dama. In 2016 he brought his elegant, cozy Omakase restaurant, Delage, to Swan’s. Two years later he opened Utzutzu, an Okimari restaurant in Alameda on Park Street in the tiny upstairs room that once housed Yume Sushi. And finally, in July 2020, he partnered with Michelin-starred sushi chef Masa Sasaki to bring the casual Japanese burger and sandwich restaurant Masabaga to Uptown Oakland.
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Restaurateur Chikara Ono prepares sushi at the Berkeley Bowl West. Photo: Momo Chang
When shelter-in-place orders forced restaurants to close their doors and only go for takeout, Ono changed course in its stores, many of which focused on full-service on-site dining. He turned to Berkeley Bowl, where he sold ready-made sushi, bentos and onigiri for years at the two locations of the market. At the Berkeley Bowl West cafe, Ono began offering take-out versions of his high-quality Delage sushi, sashimi, and hot items.
Last year Ono developed two pop-up concepts that he also offers via Berkeley Bowl West: Dela Curo with dishes made from his hearty Japanese black curry sauce and Sundo, a Japanese milk bread sandwich concept.
Ono will be doing a pop-up last March at Berkeley Bowl West this week from Thursday, March 25th through Saturday, March 27th. He will be offering a limited menu from Delage of premium nigiri sushi ($ 45), chirashi ($ 35). O-toro (bluefin tuna belly) tataki ($ 20) and Wagyu beef tataki ($ 25). The collection takes place on these days from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Pre-order is possible on the Delage website. Ono said he’ll likely resume the Berkeley Bowl popup in April, but it’s not yet certain.
One thing is certain: fans of Ono’s restaurants know that any food project he’s behind is likely to taste great. Here’s a rundown of what’s going on in all of its restaurants:
The AS B-Dama, which serves izakaya dishes at Swan’s Market, has closed, but owner Chikara Ono plans to bring two new concepts to the room. Photo: Sarah Han
The popular counter service Izakaya AS B-Dama at Swan’s Market is closed. Ono plans to turn the kiosk into an outpost for its Dela Curo and Sundo pop-ups (see details below) in the coming months. AS B-Dama was at 907 Washington Street (Ninth Street) in Oakland. Follow AS B-Dama Instagram for updates.
Ono plans to reopen its Delage omakase restaurant for al fresco dining this summer. In the meantime, Ono has his premium, chef-selected sushi at Berkeley Bowl West. Video still: Melati Citrawireja
Omakase Restaurant Delage is currently closed on Swan’s Market, but Ono and Chef Mikiko Ando are offering their chef-selected sushi and dishes at Berkeley Bowl West for a limited time. Order for collection through the Delage website. Ono plans to return to outdoor dining at Swan’s Market in the coming months. Delage, 536 Ninth St. (between Clay and Washington), Oakland. Follow Delage on Instagram for updates.
The Utzutzu, an omikiri restaurant with eight seats on the upper floor in Alameda, serves multi-course menus with cooked dishes and sushi. It is currently closed due to its small size, but Ono is hoping to reopen the restaurant this summer. Photos: Sarah Han
Ono temporarily closed Utzutzu, his eight-seat omikiri restaurant in Alameda, as it was located in a small room upstairs. However, Ono hopes to reopen this summer depending on the state of the pandemic. (Former Utzutzu sushi chef Joji Nonaka started his own omakase-style sushi pop-up called Sushi Salon.) Utzutzu, 1428 B Park St. (near Santa Clara Avenue), Alameda. Follow Utzutzu on Instagram for updates.
Masabaga’s signature seared tuna belly sandwich with black sesame tapioca crackers and potato salad. Ono plans to reopen Masabaga for al fresco dining this summer.
Uptown Oakland fast-casual spot Masabaga, which specializes in fried toro (tuna belly) sandwiches and Wagyu burgers, opened in the middle of the pandemic but had to close. Ono co-founded this place with Masa Sasaki, who was the inaugural chef at Delage and is one of the Bay Area’s most respected sushi chefs. Before Ono closed his doors, he tested some curries and sandwiches as a pop-up at this point. He hopes to reopen Masabaga with a terrace this summer. Masabaga, 2022 Telegraph Ave., (near 21st Street), Oakland. Follow Masabaga on Instagram for updates.
Ono’s pop-up Dela Curo focuses on Kanakawa-style black curry dishes. He plans to bring Dela Curo to Swan’s Market this year. Photo: Chikara Ono
Dela Curo is one of Ono’s newer concepts that he introduced last year. Working with a curry company in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, Dela Curo specializes in black curry, a style popular in Kanazawa known for its dark hue, rich taste, and thick consistency. Ono adds ground chicken or beef to his black curry sauce, as well as other condiments and vegetables that he scoops over rice, fried chicken or pork chops, spaghetti noodles, rice omelets, and more. The chef intermittently offers Dela Curo at Berkeley Bowl West, where it sells out regularly. He plans to bring Dela Curo to Swan’s Market in the former AS B-Dama room this year. Follow Dela Curo on Instagram for updates.
Sundo fruit sandwiches, a pop-up Ono plans to bring to Swan’s Market this year. Photo: Momo Chang
Sundo is a Japanese sandwich concept that uses thick, soft and fluffy milk bread from the Japanese bread company Pasco. Fruit sandwiches are mildly sweet, filled with fresh whipped cream, sometimes with a red bean or matcha flavor, and fresh fruit such as strawberries and kiwi. Hearty sandwiches include Japanese egg salad or katsu. Ono emphasizes that sundo sandwiches are more of a snack or dessert than a meal. He plans to bring this concept to the former AS B-Dama location on Swan’s Marketplace together with Dela Curo. Follow Sundo on Instagram for updates.
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