On the heels of last year’s Kaiyo Rooftop opening in SoMa, sister restaurant Kaiyo Cow Hollow just added a weekend brunch menu with eye-popping ube pancakes, uni egg toast, and ramen topped with shrimp, mussels, and octopus.
Now that the Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei cuisine spot Kaiyo Rooftop has been open for more than a year, the original Kaiyo that opened in 2018 at Union and Octavia Streets prefers to be called “Kaiyo Cow Hollow.” That Kaiyo is more parklets than rooftop dining, though its interior still retains its living wall of moss, anime bathroom murals by artist Lisa Pisa, and now offers a weekend brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday 11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., prepared in the distinctive Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei style that Kaiyo helped popularize in this city.
“There are some relatable things like pancakes or chicken and waffles, but we tried to keep everything within our concept,” executive chef Alex Reccio (Boulevard, One Market, Novela) tells SFist.
Nikkei cuisine developed in Peru in the late 1800s. Many Japanese people went looking for work in Peru as the Japanese economy teetered toward a depression, and they found they could make more money abroad to send back home.
“Through that process, a community was built and a diaspora of Japanese was born in Peru,” says Kaiyo owner and managing partner John Park (Novela, Whitechapel, Cavaña). “They wanted to cook and eat home food, but they didn’t quite have the right ingredients.”
“Nikkei cuisine is one of the seven pillars of Peruvian cuisine,” chef Reccio adds. “Peruvian cuisine benefited a lot from them. They knew how to use our seafood inventory better than we did.” That influences the Kaiyo brunch menu’s new white fish, bluefin, and salmon ceviche (seen above), and their parihuelo ramen topped with shrimp, mussel, and octopus.
The breakout hit of the menu is likely to be the ube pancakes, capitalizing on the popularity of the “ingredient of 2023” ube. “Instead of using ube, which is more identified as a Filipino yam, we use Peruvian purple potatoes, which are very similar but a little less sweet.” Park explains.
Anyone who remembers SF’s $4 toast controversies of the early 2010s will be intrigued by this avocado edamame toast. “It was a mistake,” Reccio laughs. “I made the mistake of using edamame. I needed a dip. So I started with edamame.”
That led to the additions of miso and a balsamic reduction served over Japanese milk bread. “The richness and the creaminess of the avocado, plus the texture of the edamame, and the lime juice, all of that came together nicely,” he tells us.
And here’s their take on the now-staggeringly popular chicken and waffles, called karaage chicken and waffles, and served with the Japanese fried chicken karaage. “It’s a staple in Japanese restaurants,” according to Park. “We created more of a scallion waffle, which adds a more savory taste to the waffle. It ties better to the chicken.”
“But the icing on the cake is the chicha morada syrup,” he adds.“When you go to Peru, chicha morada is on every corner. They drink it in jugs. It adds perfect harmony between the savory and sweet that you look for.”
And yes there is an elaborate cocktail menu with this brunch. “We Pride ourselves on Pisco sours, that is a staple of Peruvian drinks,” Park says. The Pisco sour is seen above right, and these are served in varieties with aji verde Peruvian peppers, egg white, or chicha morada.
The brunch menu is only available at Kaiyo Cow Hollow, but it’s eventually coming to SoMa’s Kaiyo Rooftop. “That restaurant is going to have a very similar menu to this restaurant,” Park says, adding that menu is expected to launch at Kaiyo Rooftop in “July or August.”
Images: Kaiyo Collow Hollow and Joe Kukura, SFist