Go to San Francisco’s Hottest Rooftop Bar for the Views, Stay for the Nikkei Cocktails
High above the streets of San Francisco, the city’s hottest new cocktail bar is the perfect place to dive into the art of Nikkei cuisine—with stunning views to match.
Ascend the escalator to the 12th floor of the Hyatt Place hotel in San Francisco, and immediately you’re transported away from the hard lines and dark edges of the city to a colorful and ornate hideaway inspired by the Amazon rainforest of Peru. Welcome to Kaiyo Rooftop, the latest concept from local hospitality veteran John Park, a bustling bar that serves as an ode to a cuisine that Park predicts will experience “massive growth” in the next few years.
To understand why, you must first learn the storied history of Nikkei cuisine.
This type of cooking originated with Japanese immigrants who utilized the ingredients of a new country of origin while still maintaining traditional Japanese techniques. Representative “of the Japanese diaspora,” this cuisine can be found across the globe, but “for historical reasons, two countries have had substantially more Japanese immigrants than most of the rest of the world—Brazil and Peru,” writes author Luiz Hara in Nikkei Cuisine: Japanese Food the South American Way.
Park, who was born in South Korea, discovered Nikkei cuisine through while traveling and became inspired to fill its “void” in San Francisco. “Some of the greatest cuisines in the world were created and founded by immigrants,” Park says. “People in struggle often are looking to create a culinary experience that wasn’t really available.”
After you meander through the droves of TikTokers and Golden State Warriors fans who flock to this rooftop refuge (Kaiyo airs NBA games on a screen near a dining area), sidle up to a table to taste your way through the menu. It begins with a seafood-centric menu from chef Alex Reccio, who hails from Peru—think beef empanadas with aji amarillo pepper purée, and tiradito doused in leche de tigre.
But that’s not all. There’s also an extensive cocktail program to match, thanks to bar manager Carl Brown, who’s crafted inventive, playful drinks for patrons eager to sip them in full view of the city skyline. Across the board, they’re a dance between Japan and Peru. Aji amarillo bitters and matcha coconut cream are made in-house, while spirits range from the Japanese craft gin Roku to Barsol Quebranta Pisco, made from grapes grown in Ica, Peru.
Check out That View
“Peru has been the crucible for creating a vibrant Nikkei cooking culture,” Hara writes in Nikkei Cuisine. “Peruvian Nikkei dishes often use the maritime abundance brought to the coastline by the Humboldt Current, as well as the unique aji peppers, lime, corn, and yucca, not to mention the more than 3,000 varieties of potatoes.”
Just don’t call these cocktails—or the cuisine—fusion. “This cuisine is unique and identifiable,” Park says. “It has the sustainable power of being a cuisine by itself.”
Here, the team put together a few dishes and drinks for us that can be made in your own kitchen, so you can try your hand at Nikkei cooking at home.