by Luke Tsai
For over a year, Chikara Ono has been plotting a Swan’s Market offshoot to B-Dama (4301 Piedmont Ave., Oakland), Ono’s casual izakaya — a favorite among local chefs as well as Japanese expats — but up until now details about the new Old Oakland spot have been scarce. Although the project still doesn’t have an opening date, or even a name, Ono said he does have a pretty good idea of what the new spot might serve: rice bowls.
On Wednesday, October 9, B-Dama will launch lunch service for the first time, with a rice-bowl-centric menu that will serve as a kind of test run for the new restaurant — “practice,” as Ono put it.
According to Shin Okamoto — who will helm the kitchen at the as-yet-unnamed Swan’s Market restaurant, along with fellow B-Dama cook Asuka Nadeshiko — the rice bowls will fall somewhere between traditional Japanese food, street food, and fast food. They’ll be somewhat similar to donburi, the Japanese term for rice bowl dishes that function as “one-bowl meals”: meat, vegetables, and — often — eggs, all simmered together and served atop a generous portion of white rice. But whereas donburi usually consist of traditional ingredient combinations — chicken-and-egg or marinated-beef-and-onion, for instance — B-Dama’s rice bowls will be strictly their own creations, incorporating traditional Japanese elements but also, in some cases, American, Chinese, and even Italian influences.
One of the combinations the three chefs have come up with is a rice bowl that includes gravy-soaked Japanese hamburger steak, cooked vegetables, a salad, and a poached egg — kind of a Japanese twist on Hawaiian loco moco. Other bowls might feature tonkatsu (fried breaded pork) or shogayaki (ginger pork) or the Japanese version of mapo tofu. Yet another bowl will bear some resemblance to Korean bibimbap. On any given day, there will be four or five different basic rice bowls priced at around $10, and diners will be able to customize each one with various add-ons.