There’s a saying in sports that is meant to rail against “excessive celebrations” that happen after someone scores a touchdown or puts a slap shot top-corner: Act like you’ve been there.
That phrase comes to mind when I walk into one of the Sato restaurants. The local Japanese eateries don’t give you a flashy Epcot Center version of Japan. They aren’t packed with Rising Sun bric-a-brac or hyper-modern design touches. Case in point: Sato Ramen is a working-class ramen joint, with a good amount of counter seating – function over form.
At their new Sato Brewpub located on the same block as Pearl Street Grill in the Dun Building, owners Joshua and Satomi Smith appear to be continuing this theme of nonchalance-cum-authenticity. (Fun fact – the Dun Building was Buffalo’s first highrise, finished in 1895!)
“When we first started, sushi places had been around and were popular, but there’s just so much more on a day-to-day basis of Japanese food culture that we’d like to show people,” Josh told me on a recent visit, as a staff meeting carried on in the background. “So we really delve into that with Satomi’s roots. When we go back to Japan, we visit some of the chefs her parents know and learn from them.”
The new izakaya-style brewpub (pro tip: “izakaya” is a type of informal Japanese gastropub) nods to Satomi’s Japanese roots while acknowledging that it’s located in historic, downtown Buffalo. The result is culinary koan: exotic yet local, intimidating yet approachable, complex but simple.
The opening-day menu featured a wide range of textures and flavors with something for everyone, from foodies to the meat-and-potatoes set. There are crispy char-grilled meat skewers, piping hot ramen noodles, and hearty rice bowls. There are also a number of small plates; the seaweed salad, poke bowl, and cult-favorite okonomiyaki fries have made the transition from Sato (on Elmwood). There’s also Nitamago, a soy-marinated soft-boiled egg – for the more adventurous eater.
Josh Smith said the menu really works well for people who just want to “come in, sit at the bar and try some different things. It’s not standard bar food. It’s a little bit more upscale bar food.”
As the name indicates, beer is made on premises at Sato Brewpub. Put together by head brewer Andrew Hardin,, the brewing program is set to feature American, Belgian and Japanese influences, yet another example of local tastes meeting foreign flavors.
“We found at Sato on Elmwood that a lot of the popular beers we’re selling were the Hitachino Nest and some of those Japanese craft beers, but you pay such a huge importation price on them,” Josh said. “But, we respected the fact that some of those flavor profiles really fit our food.”
In addition to beer, Sato Brewpub will also feature sake, wine, and liquor. Josh said to expect a good selection of Japanese whiskey and craft cocktails that emphasize Asian produce.
Sato Brewpub will also regularly feature music of the downtempo variety – think live jazz trios and DJs spinning chill hip-hop.
“It’s definitely a weird balance that we’ve tried to create,” Josh admitted. “But you know, by doing that, it makes it unique. That’s what’s fun about it: trying to create something authentic, but authentic to where someone is at the moment, which is in downtown Buffalo.”
110 Pearl Street, Buffalo
Unofficial opening (kitchen and all): September 8, 2017 (check Facebook for more info)
Official opening: September 12, 2017
Cuisine: Brewpub, Japanese restaurant with small plates, yakitori, izakaya, ramen, brewery
Type: Table Service
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 11am-midnight, Friday and Saturday 11am-1am. Sunday and Monday Closed (to start), Sunday Brunch coming in October. Kitchen open until 10pm. Bar snacks only from 2pm -4pm