Everything you need to know about KAIYŌ Rooftop, San Francisco’s newest hotspot
KAIYO roof is San Francisco’s new rooftop lounge to see and be seen. KAIYŌ is a contemporary Peruvian Nikkei lounge owned and operated by San Francisco restaurateur John Park of Brick x Brick Hospitality Group, who also owns KAIYŌ restaurant in Cow Hollow. With innovative cocktails and delicious cuisine in a lively, chic setting overlooking the entire San Francisco skyline, this rooftop is one of the few places in town to offer this kind of vibe and vibe.
The rooftop features contemporary decor that blends Japanese and Peruvian design accents, pops of bright color, and lush greenery. Guests are greeted by a floor-to-ceiling pop art mural as they step off the elevator, setting the tone for this Amazon oasis. And from the rooftop, guests can take in sweeping views of the city stretching from Twin Peaks to the Bay Bridge. It is ideal for a sunset.
The open-concept rooftop cocktail bar and lounge offers a unique food and beverage program focused on Nikkei, a distinct cultural cuisine developed over centuries in Peru, following Japanese emigration to the country. Nikkei seamlessly blends ingredients and spices from Peru with culinary techniques from Japan, resulting in an incredible combination of rich flavors and global cuisine, steeped in history.
At the helm of this kitchen is Peruvian chef Alex Reccio, whose cuisine is also featured in the other KAIYŌ restaurant, while chef Rafael Campo joins KAIYŌ as sushi chef, creating a curated Nikkei sushi program. Menu highlights include Nikkei ribs – pork ribs, house smoked nikkei barbecue sauce, aji amarillo coleslaw, cracked chanca; Bluefin tuna toast with crispy rice toast, avocado cream, sashimi-style chuttoro, micro; Tai Tiradito with Japanese snapper, creamy aji amarillo tiger leche, smoked yam puree, micro coriander, cracked cancha; and the Lima Roll (Torched) with shrimp tempura, yellowtail, avocado, rocoto aioli, cilantro aioli, unagi sauce, shiso chiffonnade.
And at the center of that roof is the beverage program, led by bar manager Carl Brown. The rooftop opened with 10 new Nikkei-inspired cocktails using both Japanese and Peruvian ingredients. Highlights include Prince of the Sun with Barsol pisco, rhum agricole, white miso, lemon mint, absinthe, lime and yuzu soda; Castle in the Sky with White Sesame Infused Dickel Rye, Martini & Rossi Ambrato, Sesame Honey, Port, Amaro Nonino, Chunco Bitters; and the Boro la chenille with Seedlip Garden, cucumber juice, white miso, lemon, tonic.
We spoke with John Park, Managing Partner, Brick x Brick Hospitality Group, about the inspiration behind KAIYŌ, the bar menu and program, the Peruvian Nikkei and more.
Here’s what he had to say.
What was the inspiration behind Kaiyo’s vibes and atmosphere?
Before the pandemic, San Francisco’s “effervescent” lifestyle can often be overwhelming. I wanted to offer our customers ways to disconnect from their hectic lives and experience Kaiyo’s food and cocktails in a memorable way. With Peru being so close to the Amazon, I drew my design and atmospheric inspirations from the lush green surroundings the Amazon is known for. We like to think of KAIYŌ Rooftop as a tropical oasis that evokes a sense of vacation or escape.
There aren’t many rooftops in SF — how do you plan to take advantage of them?
Being a rooftop bar in SF already generates immediate interest with locals, but when you add in the panoramic views of the downtown SF skyline and the Bay Bridge, it really does generate a lot of excitement and buzz. I often remind my leadership team, “Let’s not forget, this vision will eventually get old. Let the beauty of the space draw our customers in, but keep them top of mind by offering irresistible food and cocktails and providing memorable customer service.
Was it hard to find such a privileged spot on the rooftop in the first place?
The owners contacted me so it wasn’t necessarily difficult to “take” this space. However, the work I did to create a portfolio of great cocktail bars and a restaurant concept was very difficult. I believe it is the hard work and the creative brands that I own and manage are what brought me to this unique property.
Talk about the cuisine – there aren’t many places that specialize in Peruvian Nikkei. What is it exactly ? Why is it unique?
The story of the Peruvian Nikkei is not new. Diasporas have always cooked traditional dishes with local ingredients available in their community. Similarly, Japanese immigrants migrated to Peru in the early 1900s. They settled and quickly noticed the abundance of fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits that existed in Peru. Wanting to cook for local Peruvians, Japanese immigrants prepared traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients.
Unlike other diaspora cuisines, Peruvian Nikkei is truly unique due to the synergy between the two cultures and cuisines. Japanese cuisine was already seafood-centric, but when the lush abundance of fruits and vegetables was introduced, it truly created an explosion of unique flavors only found in Nikkei Cuisine.
Talk about the cocktail program and specialty drinks.
My bar manager, Carl Brown, and I had a lot of fun developing this menu, mostly because there’s no strong identity or understanding of what exactly Nikkei-inspired cocktails are in this world. Our take on Nikkei cocktails was almost a blank canvas.
Working with flavorful ingredients like miso and infusing spirits with Peruvian chili peppers and balancing them with Japanese and Peruvian fruit was a dream. I believe we are only scratching the surface when it comes to Nikkei cocktails. Every day we come up with creative ideas and approaches for delicious, unique and creative Nikkei cocktails with so many ingredients we can work with!
How was the reception?
Few words come to mind. Surprising! Madness! And humiliated! We have been extremely busy since our opening day. Our books filled up for 30 days the same day we posted our booking link. We are really excited and touched by the enthusiasm and interest in Kaiyo Rooftop!
Keep up to date with my foodie adventures and travels on my Instagram, @cheycheyfromthebay.