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Chef Naoki Yoshida’s Modern Izakaya is Almost Ready to Open

Shun Japanese Kitchen aims to “re-educate Houston” on authentic Japanese dining

A shipment of sea urchin just arrived at Shun.

Chef Naoki Yoshida is almost ready to open Shun Japanese Kitchen, his own take on a classic Japanese izakaya with some new-age twists.

Yoshida’s forthcoming eatery will debut at 2802 South Shepherd Drive in early October. Izakayas, the Japanese equivalent of a neighborhood bar, are popping up everywhere in Houston lately, although Yoshida says that none of them are “real” izakayas. “A real izakaya is a run-down 10-seater Japanese neighborhood pub serving beer or alcohol and about 15 to 20 food items on a 6-inch platter,” he says. “Business men will go there after work and smoke a cigarette while talking to the chef-owner who’s making their food.”

Even Shun (pronounced “shen”) has taken some liberties with the izakaya theme — it can accommodate 75 people between booth and table seating amongst warm-toned interiors. While the aesthetic is minimal, Shun also has some pops of color in the Japanese-tattoo-inspired mural art featured in the entry to the restaurant.

Yoshida aims to “re-educate Houston” on Japanese dining using seasonal ingredients with Shun, which means “the peak of the season.” “Throughout the decades, Japanese cuisine been Americanized and lost its meaning,” he tells Eater. To that end, the second generation Japanese American chef who cut his teeth in his family’s illustrious Nippon sushi eatery and in other restaurants in Japan, Chicago, LA, and Miami, will return to the basics of Japanese cooking techniques, flavors, and ingredients.

Shun will serve reimagined dumplings stuffed with pork shoulder that’s been roasted carnitas-style. Plus a grilled fish that’s smoked with local pecan wood will be on the menu — “It’s giving a Southern barbecue flair to something that’s still Japanese,” Yoshida says. “A lot of local restaurants misrepresent what Japanese food is, like using fish sauce for example — we never use fish sauce,” he explains. All of the pastry dough and sauces are made in-house from scratch, he says. Plus on the drinks side, Shun will compete to become the largest sake bar in Houston and will serve only Japanese spirits, whiskey, beer, and shochu.

Stay tuned for Shun’s official October opening date and hours of operation.