Nokni Upstairs scraps restaurant plans; Mujiri in Oakland; Townhouse reopens in Emeryville

Plus, an update on Nick’s Pizza; new izakaya spot in Temescal; La Cocina’s Voices from the Kitchen goes virtual.

Chef Julya Shin said she and business partner Steve Joo have decided not to open their restaurant, Nokni Upstairs. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

Nokni Upstairs isn’t happening

Nokni Upstairs, the restaurant from chefs Julya Shin and Steve Joo of the Cal-Korean Nokni pop-up, is no longer happening. It was to be their first brick-and-mortar, located on the second floor of the former Chow complex on Piedmont Avenue. As first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, the chefs decided to abandon the project due to the uncertainty of opening and operating a restaurant during the pandemic.

In a phone conversation with Nosh, Shin told Nosh that they were “able to pull out of the lease with little damages” thanks to an understanding and supportive landlord. She also elaborated on some of the determining factors that affected their decision.

“We decided to walk away when we realized shelter in place was never going to really fully be lifted. The space has so much outdoor eating potential, that we were like ok, how do we make this work? We were already pivoting our whole business plan to adjust to shifting, new theoretical protocols. We’d be listening to Gavin talk at noon and be thinking, ‘Now what are we going to do?’ We wanted to be responsible with our investors’ money because they trusted us,” Shin said.

Shin and Joo are both working as private chefs at this time. When asked whether they had plans to bring back the Nokni pop-up, Shin said that they’re both taking this time to regroup.


“I think right now, with everything being turned upside down and the complete upheaval of everything we know in restaurants, I think everyone is trying to find balance, personally and professionally. It’s hard to do a pop-up when you’re not feeling that grounded. Or for restaurants to host pop-ups when they’re not completely grounded.”

Mujiri, a new North Oakland sushi spot

Two nigiri sushi combos from Mujiri in North Oakland. Photo: Sarah Han
Two nigiri sushi combos from Mujiri in North Oakland. Photo: Sarah Han

A new takeout sushi restaurant called Mujiri quietly opened at the end of September. It’s on San Pablo Avenue, where Home Grown Oakland once was. The menu changes daily but always offers a selection of nigiri sushi, sashimi and maki rolls that can be ordered a la carte or in a combo. The nigiri combo, priced at $25 and packaged for takeout in a wooden box, includes seven pieces of sushi — each to be chosen by the diner — and one chef’s choice maki roll. We appreciated that Mujiri offered options like black sea bream, sea urchin and cured salmon roe, in addition to standards like big eye tuna, yellowtail and salmon. A la carte prices vary, but range from $6.50-$14.

Owner Jane Sun told Nosh that Mujiri is her first business, but she’s worked at many Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area over the years. Most of the fish Mujiri serves is flown in from Japan, and what’s offered on the menu — which is posted daily on Instagram — is based on what’s freshest in the shipment, Sun said. Some items also take a couple of days to prepare, like the cured salmon roe. Sun commutes from Daly City, but said she’s been enjoying getting to know the North Oakland neighborhood and the friendly customers in the area. Mujiri is open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5-9:30 p.m., daily. Mujiri, 6501 San Pablo Ave., Unit B, Oakland

A new iteration for Emeryville’s Townhouse Bar & Grill

Townhouse Bar & Grill in Emeryville has reopened with a new chef at the helm, who's offering a menu of acessible comfort foods. Photo: Townhouse Bar & Grill
Townhouse Bar & Grill in Emeryville has reopened with a new chef at the helm, who’s offering a menu of acessible comfort foods. Photo: Townhouse Bar & Grill

Townhouse Bar & Grill, a restaurant in Emeryville that was ground zero for the cocktail renaissance in the ’90s, recently reopened under new ownership with a new chef at the helm. Chef Jake Kwan Rosenbush, who spent prior time in the kitchens of San Francisco restaurants like Hardwood Bar & Smokery, Stock in Trade, Gary Danko and 15 Romolo, is aiming to breathe new life into Townhouse, which had long satiated area locals with its homey, fine-casual eats, but had never regained traction as a dining destination after its ’90s heyday.

Townhouse is currently open for takeout and dining in the makeshift parking lot patio, noon to 8 p.m., Wednesday through Friday; 11 to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Kwan Rosenbush refreshed the menu but has stayed true to the restaurant’s low-key, accessible vibe. Townhouse’s current dinner offerings lean heavily towards comforting dishes, such as a tavern-style burger, a fried chicken sandwich and prime rib au jus with mashed potatoes; for dessert, there’s a Basque-style burnt cheesecake (the uber-trendy dessert you might have seen popping up in your Instagram feed of late); and brunch dishes include chilaquiles, bacon and egg Panzanella salad, and biscuits and gravy. Townhouse Bar & Grill, 5862 Doyle St., (between 59th Street and Powell Street), Emeryville


Nick’s Pizza is finally moving

Permitting delays had stymied Nick’s Pizza from moving to its new location, but yesterday, the Bushrod neighborhood pizza spot and bakery had its final day of service at its original location at 6211 Shattuck Ave. and will finally begin the relocation process. According to a social media post from owner Nick Yapor, he hopes to reopen Nick’s at the larger spot at 6400 Shattuck Ave. sometime before Thanksgiving. When it’s up and running, Nick’s will be counter service, with outdoor seating and an expanded menu of eats. Along with hot pizzas by the slice or pie, expect “light bake” pies to finish at home, bagels, bread and pastries. New to Nick’s will be made-to-order deli sandwiches and a selection of seasonal sides. Follow Nick’s Pizza on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates on the progress of the move.

No more egg on a roll in downtown Oakland

An Egg on a Roll with bacon at Binney Park in Downtown Oakland.
An egg on a roll sandwich from Binney Park; the downtown sandwich shop has closed due to COVID-19. Photo: Becca Wyant

Downtown Oakland lost its East Coast-inspired sandwich spot, Binney Park at 409 14th St., the only spot in the East Bay (that we know of) that offered the NY-deli staple, egg on a roll. Owner Chris Silverman, who opened Binney Park last October, confirmed that his restaurant has closed for good. “Yes unfortunately Covid took us out! We are obviously devastated as this was something I’ve wanted to do for decades since moving to California in 1989,” Silverman wrote in an email. “We were only opened a little over 4 months and off to a great start. With downtown office traffic coming to a screeching halt we have no other option but to close down. We simply cannot afford to wait until life downtown comes back to where it was pre-Covid.” According to Silverman, the space does not yet have a new tenant.

Izza opens in Temescal

In September, Nosh shared that a new restaurant called Izza was taking over the former KangNam Pho space. At the time, we had no other details to share, but based on the name alone, we figured more pizza was heading to Telegraph Avenue. Good thing we didn’t put any money down on that! Izza opened Oct. 7 and is offering Izakaya fare — small plates, yakitori, sake and beer — for takeout and outdoor dining in a covered tent. Prices range from $6-$16 for cold and hot appetizers, $3-$5 per skewered item and $11-$25 for rice bowls and a variety of sandwiches. (We’ve yet to try it, but we are intrigued by the uni and scallop sando.) Izza opens at 5 p.m. daily. Izza, 4419 Telegraph Ave. (between 44th and 45th streets), Oakland

Don’t miss food storytelling events

Oakland-native, chef Crystal Wahpepah specializes in Kickapoo and Native American cuisine. Photo: Wahpepah’s Kitchen

This Thursday, Oct. 15, at noon, join a virtual gathering hosted by Real Food Real Stories featuring Oakland chef Crystal Wahpepah, a member of the Kickapoo nation, who has been working to revive Native foods through her catering company, Wahpepah’s Kitchen. Register online to tune in.

On Oct. 29, San Francisco-based kitchen incubator La Cocina, which works to support underrepresented food entrepreneurs, will present the 10th installment of Voices from the Kitchen. The popular live storytelling show normally packs in crowds to its sold-out productions, but this time, due to COVID, it will be aired on La Cocina’s Youtube channel. The lineup of storytellers includes luminaries like writer-performer Lauren Whitehead; James Beard Award-winning writer Mayukh Sen; New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentino; and La Cocina alum, Aileen Suzara of Sariwa Kitchen (which had a short but sweet stint at UC Berkeley’s La Cocina Cantina in 2018), among many others. The show airs at 5:30 p.m. and is free to watch. Register on Eventbrite, where you can add a donation to La Cocina or purchase snack boxes or meal kits filled with eats from La Cocina chefs, like a fried chicken family meal kit from Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement that serves up to four people.


Sarah Han is Nosh editor at Berkeleyside. Email: sarah@berkeleyside.com.