Umami Mart has evolved immensely since we first arrived 2007. We were first a food and drink blog, then, in 2010, Yoko and I started importing bar tools from Japan and selling them on our website. From there, in 2012, we opened our brick + mortar store in downtown Oakland. Our walls and shelves were quite bare at first, but over the years we slowly started stocking them with Japanese snacks, sake + beer, then whisky + shochu.
In May, we made a huge leap of faith by moving our shop to a new location. Although we are only two miles up the road from where we used to be, this is a brand spankin' new space for us, in a completely new neighborhood (whattup Temescal!). And with this change brings a completely new element to add to Umami Mart: the Bar!
Designed by Anders Arhoj of Studio Arhoj, the bar is inspired by our time visiting bars and restaurants together in Japan. Here's what Arhoj says about his design:
Whereas the store itself is white, clean, airy and a bright space for the daytime - the Umami Mart Bar is for the night. A modern interpretation of the tiny back-alley Japanese bars with only a few seats and the whole business happening behind the bar desk. The Umami Mart Bar is all black, intimate and cozy with discrete lighting and a back wall shelf system that allows the visitors to look, learn and have fun while tasting.
Just like when we first opened in 2012, we partnered with Joseph Perez-Green and Devin Farrell of Oakland's Manual Labor to build the bar and all the fixtures. The bar would not be so stately without their vision.
The bar and shelves are made of American Ash, then painted with sumi ink. They outlined the bar by mounting steel pieces that encloses the space with maximum impact.
We like to think of the bar as a place to hang out, eat snacks, enjoy sake + shochu, and learn about them! Education is always a huge component of what we do and the bar is no different. We offer smaller pours and flights for those who want to taste through our drink menu, which rotates weekly.
Graphic art wall by Arhoj. Every piece is for sale.
We also serve Japanese beers on tap and cocktails!
You can usually find me and Yoko behind the bar – we are here to talk your ear off about sake and shochu. Come see us!
Umami Mart Bar is open on Fridays 4-7pm; Saturdays/Sundays 12-7pm.