In a rare hopeful piece of recent restaurant activity, Andy Bernard and business partner Crystal Gurin are opening a brick-and-mortar location of Kaiseki, the home-delivery sushi service he started in the spring in Center City and South Philadelphia.
Kaiseki opens Wednesday, Dec. 2, inside 990 Spring Garden St., a mixed-use building in the Callowhill neighborhood that houses offices as well as Roy-Pitz Barrel House and the Lucky Well restaurant.
The location, which was a Schmear It bagel stand a while back, will sell sushi for takeout Wednesday to Friday. Delivery from that location will expand to Wednesday through Saturday.
The South Jersey-born Bernard is certainly well traveled, counting stops at the old Pamplona in Center City (line cook while he attended Temple University, Class of 1995) and Fork (under opening chef Anne-Marie Lasher), Morimoto (a few months after its 2000 opening as a cook on the hot line), and Sam’s Morning Glory Diner in Bella Vista, where he managed and met Gurin when the Morning Glory catered her birthday party.
After working for various catering companies, Bernard said he felt uninspired. So he went to sushi school: the Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles. He went to work at a sushi restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., and then moved home to Philadelphia, where in February he landed a job at Hiroki, the ambitious omakase room attached to Wm. Mulherin’s Sons in Fishtown. Which is where the story veers off. He was there two, maybe three weeks before the coronavirus shut down the sushi bars.
“I was just getting rolling,” Bernard said, blissfully unaware of his pun.
Bernard started making sushi for friends, and “and then it turned into something. Then it became more of an ‘I’m going to make a living doing this.’ ” That is, cutting fish and pickling vegetables, which complement the sushi.
Word spread. In a summertime roundup of his favorite takeout, critic Craig LaBan praised Bernard’s “lusciously thick-cut craftsmanship and quality of the fish” on the chirashi, a $35 bowl of sushi. “I was so happy because that’s my favorite dish,” Bernard said. “It’s the thing I probably take the most pride in, in that it has all kinds of fish and has meaning to me. It’s what put me on the path to want to learn more about sushi and Japanese technique.”