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Bincho, a Japanese Robata Restaurant, Fills a Long-Vacant South Street Spot

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Look for Japanese-style barbecue plus sushi at the upcoming eatery

Bincho is opening at 2nd and South streets

After 27 years focusing on ice cream, restaurateur Brian Calhoun is trying his hand at Japanese-style grilling with Bincho. The new robatayaki restaurant, going into a long-empty space at 2nd and South streets, is slated to open in April.

Calhoun started working at Häagen-Dazs on the same South Street block in high school, and bought the ice cream shop 20 years ago. He also opened a Dairy Queen, now closed, at 5th and South. But for Bincho, he’s going to the opposite end of the temperature spectrum. The restaurant is named for binchotan, an especially hot-burning hardwood charcoal, which chef-partner Sat Ly will be making good use of at the restaurant’s grill. On the menu: beef, chicken, fish, and vegetables cooked over the virtually smokeless white charcoal with no sauces or garnishes, in keeping with the traditional robata style.

Bincho will also serve some sushi and sashimi but, Calhoun says, the emphasis is on robata. The dining room is even designed around the grill, with a U-shaped bar, which makes up the main seating area, surrounding it. Diners will be able to watch their food being cooked before the chefs serve it to them directly, similar to a hibachi restaurant (but no theatrics, Calhoun says).

Bincho is on the same block as Haagen Dazs

The address was last Knave of Hearts, but that closed ages ago. When Calhoun and his partners took over the space, located in a newly renovated building at 228 South Street, the restaurant was an empty shell. They went for a contemporary design, he says, with light-colored tiles, wooden chairs, and live edge wood for the bar (polished smooth, but looking like it was just cut off the tree).

Construction is complete, so now it’s just a wait for permits. The plan is to open Bincho as a BYOB next month, and add alcohol in a few months when they secure the liquor license.

Takashi Yoshida, who recently retired from restaurant life and closed his Hikaru just around the corner, owns the building. He’s offered a few suggestions, Calhoun says, but he’s not involved in Bincho.