Tucked away on the industrial Ingraham Street hides a gem in Dashi Brooklyn. Owner Richard Kashida brought his latest brand to Bushwick just over a year ago in search of a niche for an intimate and modern Japanese cuisine. But he couldn’t have predicted the pandemic looming around the corner.
Kashida had opened restaurants concept before, including the first New York City locations of Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ and Jin Ramen in Manhattan. When he began as a line cook at Gyu-Kaku, Kashida told Bushwick Daily that he never expected he would be opening up and building more of them. Yet, over the course of twenty years, Kashida diligently worked his way up from the kitchens to franchise ownership.
The story began in the steamy kitchens of Los Angeles. He started working at Gyu-Kaku to pay the bills while going to school, and when they asked him to become a manager, he jumped at the opportunity. “I actually dropped out of school and put everything on hold, started training for management, and went on to just open up new locations,” Kashida told Bushwick Daily.
“There were weeks when I’d be working like 110 hours a week so it was crazy.”
After opening several more Gyu-Kaku’s, first in LA and then in New York, Kashida decided to move on. This led him, first, to the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, where he joined the frey with a pop up called Rooster Boy—“a modern take on traditional Japanese chicken,” he said. During the winter, he started selling pho from a food stand he called Pho Cup.
“We were getting busier and busier every year — so until the pandemic shut down Smorgasburg, we were left with nothing,” he added. So, he moved on to a new concept and ended up in Bushwick.
“What I typically do is I’ll find a location and then I’ll kind of take a look at the neighborhood and see what it’s lacking and kind of work backward from there to determine whether or not it will be successful, or we can make it successful,” Kashida said. Looking at Bushwick, Kashida decided that the neighborhood needed his Koji-marinated fried chicken. Elsewhere on the menu are Donburi rice dishes and an array of sandwiches that give their own twist on the idea of Japanese cuisine. For example, his avocado BLT ($10) isn’t necessarily what you’d expect, but with spicy aioli and paired with the right tea, the bodega sandwich fits in seamlessly.
After he furloughed his entire staff, the weight of Dashi quickly fell wholly onto Kashida’s shoulders. He hired the buzzy web development startup BentoBox to build him a website and then worked with drivers from third-party apps to deliver orders. Touching up the menu to make it more takeout friendly, Kashida discovered he was able to rehire much of his staff.
But then in May, Kashida got sick and had to rely on chef friends and partners to keep Dashi afloat. The pandemic created an inflection point for Kashida. “After getting out of the hospital and everything, I kind of reevaluated my situation and I’m thinking maybe in the next few years to possibly, you know, sell our restaurant, and possibly move back to LA, and open something out there.”
But for now, Kashida is hoping to transform Dashi Brooklyn’s outdoor patio into a community spot. He says he will bring in live music, expand food and drink service, and will even be incorporating his take on Japanese BBQ into the menu.
Top photo credit: Dashi Brooklyn
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