It's time to lose the fork and finally perfect your chopstick skills in honor of San Diego's newest dining destination: UnderBelly, opening in Little Italy early November 2011.
While Little Italy's restaurant row is mostly defined by classic Italian eateries, there is a new urban trend sweeping the area that honors social engineering and craft spirits over checkered tablecloths and fine wine. The men behind the movement are Arsalun Tafazoli and Nathan Stanton of Consortium Holdings who reinvented the community vibe with Craft & Commerce, their first project in Little Italy that launched onto the scene in August 2010. These guys are also the brains behind Neighborhood, Noble Experiment, and El Dorado, three thriving lifestyle concepts in East Village.
The UnderBelly vision is to be a tribute to traditional Japanese ramen houses, from the focused culinary approach to the exotic urban décor. UnderBelly will serve four basic foundations of ramen, and a vegan alternative, paired with assorted toppings, pork buns, gyoza, and appetizers. Simple, respectful and inspired, the menu will reflect Japanese food culture as interpreted by Consortium Holdings' founder Arsalun Tafazoli who studied the regional customs while attending the Chinese University of Hong Kong. And don't think about cutting any corners - there won't be a single spoon in the joint.
While Craft & Commerce and Noble Experiment are known for trend-setting handcrafted cocktails, UnderBelly's beverage program will focus more on international draft beer and California draft wine. Buzz-seekers will land on a 27-handle draft brew list with rare finds, including a selection of beers from Japan's Hitachino Nest, as well as four varieties of draft wine from Sonoma Valley vineyards.
UnderBelly's intimate 1,100 square-foot space is designed to bring people together and to inspire the lost art of conversation. In place of oversized plasma TVs and blaring DJ sets, UnderBelly creates an open atmosphere and encourages patrons to fill the space with story-telling, love and laughter. And of course, first date discussions are always better when surrounded by thoughtful décor. UnderBelly boasts an interior design that was created by a number of innovative artists, including local designer Mauricio Couturier (El Camino); brick-and-mortar master Paul Basile (Craft & Commerce, George's); Black Lotus Floral Design; and branding agency Studio Number One, founded by artist Shepard Fairey. My favorite conversation starter? The 15-foot tall version of Andy Warhol's portrait of Mao Zedong, brought to life with 3,200 individually planted succulents.