Uni, Snappy Ramen Chef Plans His Own Japanese Restaurant Downtown

Youji Iwakura's Kamakura is headed for State Street.

Chef Youji Iwakura at Basho. / Photo provided

Chef Youji Iwakura at Basho. / Photo provided

A veteran of the local Japanese food scene has taken the first steps to open his own place. Chef Youji Iwakura appealed to the licensing board this week to open Kamakura in downtown Boston.

Iwakura, currently ramen master at Snappy Ramen in Davis Square, has a music degree from Berklee, but owning his own restaurant is a childhood dream. The Japan native learned the ropes of the business with stints as a sushi chef, general manager, bartender, and executive chef at some of Boston’s best-known Japanese restaurants. He was chef de cuisine at Ken Oringer’s Uni, and was the opening chef at Basho in Fenway.

At Kamakura, which is named for Iwakura’s hometown, he’ll share a little bit of everything he’s learned, representing the coastal, traditional-meets-modern city he comes from, he told Eater Boston. That will include contemporary kaiseki cuisine (seasonal, multi-course meals), street food-inspired dishes, and bento boxes at lunchtime. Expect “more than just sushi, teriyaki, tempura, or what people call traditional Japanese food,” he told Eater. He plans to make “fine dining food accessible and casual dining food sexier.”

Iwakura plans to stock the bar with a large selection of sakes and some Japanese whiskeys, along with beer, wine, and cocktails, Eater reports.

The licensing decision was deferred for now, according to an employee in the board office. Besides that hurdle, Iwakura also has to do a full, gut renovation of the building, located right next door to Ginger Man. The chef anticipates Kamakura is a year-plus out.

150 State Street, Boston.