A food & drink primer before the downtown restaurant opens next week.
Scheduled to open on Thursday, July 30 is Blush Ice Bar + East-West Kitchen, whose 7,000-square-foot corner at 6th and Market has been remodeled into sleek and modern space that includes an 18-seat raw bar, oyster lounge, a dining room with banquette and booth seating and roll-up doors that open onto a sidewalk patio. It will operate for lunch and dinner daily, with weekend brunch and an aggressive happy hour that includes $1 oysters.
Blush’s owners Taylor Kim and Russ Fukushima founded their flagship Blush Ice Bar & Raw Kitchen in San Jose in 2012 and Kim, now an East Village resident, saw the opportunity to plug their drink-focused concept into the Gaslamp. The first Blush only offered cold raw bar items, but the partners noticed a void in high-end Asian fusion within the downtown food landscape.
Enter executive chef Daniel Barron (La Valencia, Blue Point Coastal Cusine), who once helmed a Euro-Asian bistro in Orange County from the owners of the Crustacean restaurants. Barron, his chef de cuisine Stephen Gage and team are cooking up a large and ambitious menu out of a kitchen that includes a wok station and a dry aged meat program that Barron says will produce the best steaks in the city; his “Umami Bomb” is a 14 ounce, 21 day aged ribeye that gets cured with smoked soy and porcini for a week before being grilled. The chef, who organized a grand foie gras dinner when the delicacy was re-legalized, is featuring the goose liver here in a ramen dish with homemade noodles and a concentrated tsukemen broth made from duck, chicken and bacon. Barron will also behousemaking sauces and condiments, from soy to miso; his Chicken Diavolo comes with an optional house hot sauce made from fiery ghost peppers.
From the 40-seat main bar, Blush will mix up any cocktail, but will feature their signature Blushcocktail. Though the restaurant kept a few of the slushy dispensers from the space’s previous tenant, Wet Willie’s, co-founder Kim, who invented the Blushcocktail, is quick to differentiate the two. While Wet Willie’s served artificially-flavored boozy slushes, Blush tops its cocktails with fresh fruit frosted ice that gets stirred into the finished drink; a sweet and potent version of a Cosmopolitan gets a crown of cranberry frozen ice while a mix of cucumber, gin and riesling is topped with lemon-lime ice. Beyond the signature concoctions, there are build-your-own options created from a varied list of spirits, frosted ice and fruit purees.
The owners have a growth plan that includes at least eight more Blush concepts; though the signature drinks will remain, the duo says that the food component for the next spots could range from tacos to burgers. A location in Pacific Beach is likely, as are outposts in other beach communities from here to Los Angeles.
A 2,800-square-foot space at the rear of the restaurant has been sectioned off for an adjacent speakeasy, with its own food offerings and a more craft cocktail-leaning drink menu that should launch in the next eight months.