Delage to Softly Open at Swan's Market with Michelin-Starred Sushi Chef at the Helm

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Via Instagram, @as_bdama.
  • Via Instagram, @as_bdama.
Don't look now, but Oakland is about to get a serious addition to its sushi scene: A few months ago, What the Fork reported that Chikara Ono, chef-owner of AS B-Dama (907 Washington St., Oakland), was planning to open a new sushi restaurant at Swan's Market, in a stand-alone space at 536 9th Street, adjacent to the main "food court" area that houses AS B-Dama.

That restaurant, which Ono has since dubbed Delage, will softly open with an omakase-style prix-fixe dinner menu this week, with preliminary hours from about 5:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Friday.

Details are a bit hazy at this point, as Ono is still sorting things out in the eleventh hour. But there's good reason to think that this will be the most exciting sushi spot to open in Oakland proper since — well, for as long as I can remember. (Ono's flagship restaurant, AS B-Dama, is hard to categorize, but it's more of an izakaya than a sushi restaurant.)

1. For starters, Ono has brought on some real firepower to help him launch this endeavor. The opening chef will be one of San Francisco's most respected sushi chefs, Masa Sasaki, who earned a Michelin star at Maruya before he left the high-end Mission district sushi restaurant in 2014. The plan is for Sasaki to run the show for the first three months or so, in close collaboration with Ono. At that point, either Ono himself or one of his young sous chefs at AS B-Dama will likely take over.

Via Instagram, @as_bdama.
  • Via Instagram, @as_bdama.
2. Ono didn't offer much explanation for why the restaurant is called "Delage" (which some might recognize as the name of a defunct French luxury car company), except to say that while the sushi will be strictly traditional (i.e., mostly nigiri), many of the appetizers will be more modern dishes that incorporate classical French technique. To head up that part of the menu, Ono has hired Keisuke Akabori, a chef at Spago — Wolfgang Puck's iconic California cuisine institution in Beverly Hills.

3. While Ono hasn't decided yet whether the restaurant will offer an a la carte menu, during the soft opening period Delage will probably do omakase-style service only — omakase being the sushi equivalent to the Western fine-dining tasting menu, except that the sequence of dishes is chosen at the chef's whim. Oakland, to my knowledge, doesn't currently have a sushi restaurant that specializes in omakase. Ono is still finalizing the prices, and deciding whether there will be different omakase "tiers" that customers can choose from. But he said an omakase dinner at Delage will likely run somewhere in the ballpark of $40–$60 a person. While that isn't cheap, it's exceedingly reasonable for omakase. Ono said a typical dinner might consist of four or five small appetizers and eight or ten pieces of sushi. 

Delage isn't a very big restaurant — there should be room for ten sushi eaters at the bar, and maybe another twelve seated at four-tops. Mark it down, then: If the food lives up to expectations, those might quickly become some of the Town's toughest seats to snag.

The restaurant's soft opening period will likely last a couple of weeks, Ono said. The official grand opening is slated for sometime in May.

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