That’s a hell of a tree. That’s the first thing you notice about Cloak & Petal, the new Japanese small-plates restaurant opened in Little Italy (1953 India Street, formerly home to Entrada). The project is a collaboration between Isamu Morikizono (owner/chef of the hugely successful Tajima ramen joints) and Cesar Vallin (Prospect Bar, The Rooftop La Jolla). With open windows to the street revealing the center bar that boasts two huge, flowering cherry blossom trees inspired by hanami (the welcoming of spring in Japan), it’s going to be hard for passersby to pass by. The 7,500 square-foot space includes glass brick and subway tiles, graffiti art, and Japanese etiquette posters to cement the underground (with a tree) vibe.
In the kitchen is exec chef TJ, who spent time in Japan during his 21 years cooking. Designed to be a "social dining experience," which is the de facto restaurant model these days, the collection of small-plates is impressive. There are 30 small plates (that's a ton) on the opening menu, including yuzu salad, jidori chicken karaage (fried chicken) with togarashi (spicy chili) aioli, pork belly kakuni (braised meat), spicy salmon battera (Osaka style sashimi), elk sashini, surf and turf pate (ankimo and foie gras), wagyu rolls, spicy tuna baguette, and abalone bata yaki (butter sauce).
They’ll also be doing sushi, sashimi, and nigiri, plus craft cocktails like the "Japananah" (sansho spice-infused gin, violets, clove, Caribbean spice, citrus, coconut, banana, and cardamom) and "Japanese to English" (a Japanese Manhattan with sesame-infused Iwai Japanese whiskey, amaro, and Italian Torino). Craft beers , wine , and sake are also part of the menu.
It’s a beautiful space. Opens this weekend. Please enjoy a first look at Cloak & Petal in the gallery below.