Shota Nakajima opens chaotic Detroit-style Japanese pizzeria on Capitol Hill

Celebrity chef Shota Nakajima has been rumored to have been involved with many different restaurants this year – including a teriyaki restaurant he mysteriously retired from in Cle Elum – but Nakajima’s latest project is perhaps his most surprising to come. date: he opens a pizza at the Detroit restaurant.

Kōbo, which means yeast in Japanese, will launch on September 10 at Redhook Brewlab on Capitol Hill, next to Nakajima’s fried chicken restaurant, Taku. It will serve Nakajima’s Japanese version of Detroit-style pizza as well as umami-heavy brewery snacks.

At first glance, Nakajima, a chef trained in Japan, seems to have little connection to the typical Midwestern dish of Kōbo. But he says the Detroit-style pizza (with its crispy cheese crust and soft interior) reminds him of the kind of starchy street food (okonomiyaki, a savory cabbage pancake) he enjoyed while training as a chef in Osaka, Japan, a carb-obsessed city where people order rice with their yakisoba and ramen.

A rectangular pizza topped with cilantro, chopped fried chicken, sliced ​​red onions and hot sauce.

The Hot Neighbor is a chaotic creation topped with chopped Taku fried chicken, cilantro and hot koji sauce.
Nakajima Shot

A rectangular pizza topped with ground meat, shredded cabbage, pickled onions and green onions.

The Dodger is made with braised beef, cheddar, and cabbage, among other ingredients, and topped with Kewpie mayonnaise.
Shota Nakajima

Nakajima says taking over the Redhook Brewlab kitchen is part of a larger effort to connect businesses and build a closer community in the blocks surrounding Taku.

“It’s a community vibe,” says Nakajima. “It’s almost like a food court when you walk in.”

Now, with a bigger space and kitchen, Nakajima says he’ll be able to collaborate more with local businesses — and with celebrity chefs across the country who want to work with him on pop-ups or need a little help. space for book signings and other publicity events.

“It was kind of the perfect first step to working with the block,” says Nakajima.

At Kōbo, Nakajima will serve pizza dough with a few twists that make the dish a little more Japanese, and a little more Shota. For example, Nakajima adds milk, buttermilk, and clarified butter to the dough to give it the flavor and sweetness of Japanese milk bread. He also mixes mochiko (the rice flour used to make mochi) with wheat flour to give the finished product a bit more elasticity, a technique he says is used in some Japanese pizzerias.

Pizzas range from classic flavors like The Flat-Earther, with mozzarella, red sauce and basil, to really chaotic creations like The Hot Neighbor, topped with chopped Taku fried chicken, jack cheese, hot sauce with koji and cilantro (a good example of the “chaos kitchen” trend, a kind of aggressive, strange but thoughtful approach to fusion that is sweeping the American restaurant scene this fall). Like the okonomiyaki, a few of the pizzas are topped with shredded cabbage, and The Dodger (named after Nakajima’s dog) is even served with Kewpie mayonnaise, a popular condiment for starchy Japanese street food.

Beyond pizza, Kōbo will serve bar snacks made like corn dog nuggets made with what Nakajima describes as a juicer, a Japanese version of Lit’l Smokies, tater tots served with ketchup à la chili jam, fried broccoli with sweet chili sauce, and pretzel bites with miso beer cheese.

Originally, when Nakajima was considering taking over the kitchen of Redhook Brewlab (the brewery needed help running its kitchen and he wanted to expand into the neighborhood), he planned to stay closer to his Japanese roots by serving okonomiyaki. But after spending time at the brewery and getting to know the regulars, he realized that American comfort food (with a few umami touches) would be an easier sell.

Redhook Brewlab is also now serving a Nakajima beer developed with the brewery – a red rice gose made with strawberry, raspberry and two stages of koji fermentation (the mold used to make sake) as well as a yeast fermentation of regular beer, for more umami and a longer, balanced aftertaste.

Kobo is located at 714 East Pike Street. Hours of operation will be 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

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