Obon’s Humiko Hozumi and Jason Duffany have come a good distance. The 2 have watched their enterprise develop steadily during the last seven years, from their vegan Japanese meals enterprise’s early days at farmers markets, the place they needed to clarify onigiri to unfamiliar prospects, to opening a stall inside the meals corridor Morrison Market in February 2020. Subsequent month, they’ll take one other step ahead: This July, Obon Shokudo will bid farewell to its Morrison Market stall and take over the previous Kachinka house on SE Grand Avenue. The cooks broke the information on Instagram, saying a brand new restaurant that can serve homestyle Japanese curry, house-made udon, and kenchinjiru stew, whereas ramping up the manufacturing of fermented items.
Hozumi and Duffany need their new restaurant house to supply one thing distinct inside Portland’s vegan and Japanese meals scenes, offering meatless takes on Japanese consolation meals. “There are such a lot of Japanese eating places on the market, however nobody is doing vegan Japanese that’s homestyle,” she says. For them, which means dishes like umeboshi (pickled plum) onigiri, curried kabocha squash korokke, panko-breaded Ota tofu katsu, and hearty kenchinjiru miso vegetable stew — made with seasonal elements and primarily based on Hozumi’s household recipes.
“I discovered to cook dinner by private expertise. That’s my ardour,” Hozumi says. “Our meals is … what your mother and grandma would cook dinner at house.” The theme of household is carried by the Obon title and branding: the black and white brand depicts Hozumi’s household crest, and Obon is each a Japanese pageant in mid-August that commemorates one’s ancestors, and the title for a picket lacquered tray used for tea ceremonies and snacks.
Initially from the mountainous area of the Saitama Prefecture in Japan, Hozumi says Obon’s meals is, for probably the most half, conventional to the place she grew up. Just like the Pacific Northwest, the area affords an abundance of mushrooms, and Hozumi’s household had a small vegetable farm that offered a lot of the fodder for meals. Her mom would make miso from scratch, and her father would make udon noodles by hand, which turned the inspiration to the recent and bouncy house-made udon served at Obon Shokudo in the present day.
When the husband-wife group moved from San Francisco to Portland, they initially launched Obon as a catering enterprise earlier than exploring the potential of promoting tofu misozuke — miso-fermented tofu with a wealthy pate-like consistency — as a wholesale product. It wasn’t till Heman Bhojwani, the proprietor of native vegan and gluten-free distributor Earthly Gourmand, instructed they promote Japanese meals that Hozumi and Duffany entered Portland’s farmers market scene. The Jade Evening Market in the summertime of 2014 was Obon’s first occasion, earlier than a two-year run on the Lents farmers market and a slate of different markets and occasions.
Though Obon discovered success at farmers markets, it initially confronted some challenges as Portlanders weren’t as conversant in homestyle Japanese cooking as different sorts of Japanese delicacies like sushi and ramen. “It was an enormous, steep, uphill battle,” Duffany says. “Individuals didn’t wish to strive our meals, and we needed to give out samples.” In comparison with San Francisco, Hozumi says the Portland meals scene was a bit behind when Obon first launched, and the 2 spent plenty of time educating dishes to potential prospects. “Not many individuals knew what onigiris had been… additionally, kenchinjiru was one other factor folks had a tough time with,” she says. “We began telling them it’s like miso soup, however with extra greens in it, not like a cup of miso soup you’ll get at sushi eating places. Individuals used to ask us if korokke had been falafels.”
After some time, Obon turned a farmers market standby, and the enterprise developed title recognition inside Portland’s intensive vegan group. On the new restaurant, then, the 2 will have the ability to dive right into a wider spectrum of dishes. For lunch, Obon Shokudo will serve the present menu of bentos, curry, onigiris, and okonomiyaki. The dinner menu will embrace izakaya-style small bites, like skewered dishes. A bar menu — with drinks like freshly squeezed orange juice with sake and soju — is within the works, as effectively.
A lot of the menu will depend on fermented items, which the 2 will do themselves: To extend the manufacturing of fermented objects, Hozumi and Duffany just lately launched a brand new model known as Obon Kojo, to adjust to Multnomah County’s fermentation rules. The brand new firm will present miso and koji to Obon Shokudo and ultimately promote to different eating places, as effectively.
For Hozumi and Duffany, there’s way more to Obon than cooking: They wish to make natural vegan meals accessible to the bigger inhabitants, no matter revenue degree. “There’s nonetheless an absence of meals justice inside the restaurant trade,” Duffany says. “We attempt to do all the things natural. That’s the bottom high quality you’ll get from us… we wish to carry actually good meals to folks that may’t afford to buy at Entire Meals and costly locations.”
“There must be extra folks doing that sort of factor,” Hozumi provides. “We’re such small fish, what we do for society is a small impression — however that is what we do.”
Obon Shokudo will open at 720 SE Grand Ave. on July 1.
• Obon [Official]