KAIYŌ Rooftop is San Francisco’s newest rooftop bar and lounge to see and be seen. KAIYŌ is a contemporary Peruvian Nikkei bar and 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 food in a lively, chic setting overlooking the entire San Francisco skyline, this rooftop is one of very few spots in the city that offers this type of vibe and ambiance.
The rooftop features contemporary decor blending both Japanese and Peruvian design accents, vibrant pops of color, and lush greenery. Guests are greeted by a floor-to-ceiling pop art mural as they step off the elevator, which sets the mood for this Amazon oasis. And from the rooftop, guests can take in sprawling views of the city spanning from Twin Peaks to the Bay Bridge. It’s ideal for a sunset.
The open-concept rooftop cocktail bar and lounge features a unique food and beverage program that focuses on Nikkei, a distinct cultural cuisine developed over centuries in Peru, following the Japanese emigration to the country. Nikkei seamlessly blends the ingredients and spices of Peru with the culinary techniques of Japan making for an unbelievable combination of rich flavor and overall cuisine, one that’s rooted in history.
At the helm of this kitchen is Peruvian Chef Alex Reccio, whose cuisine is also showcased at the other KAIYŌ restaurant, while Chef Rafael Campo joins KAIYŌ as the sushi chef, creating a curated Nikkei sushi program. Menu highlights include Nikkei Ribs – pork ribs, homemade smokey nikkei bbq sauce, aji amarillo cole slaw, cracked chanca; Bluefin Tuna Toast with crispy rice toast, avocado cream, sashimi style chuttoro, micro; Tai Tiradito with Japanese snapper, aji amarillo creamy leche de tigre, smokey yam puree, micro cilantro, cracked cancha; and the Lima Roll (Torched) with shrimp tempura, yellowtail, avocado, rocoto aioli, cilantro aioli, unagi sauce, shiso chiffonade.
And at the center stage of this rooftop is the beverage program, led by Bar Manager Carl Brown. The rooftop opened with 10 new Nikkei-inspired cocktails utilizing both Japanese and Peruvian ingredients. Highlights include Prince of the Sun with Barsol pisco, agricole rum, 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 the Caterpillar with Seedlip Garden, cucumber juice, white miso, lemon, tonic.
We chatted with John Park, Managing Partner, Brick x Brick Hospitality Group, on the inspiration behind KAIYŌ, the menu and bar program, Peruvian Nikkei and more.
Here’s what he had to say.
What was the inspiration behind the vibes and atmosphere of Kaiyo?
Prior to the pandemic, San Francisco’s “hustle and bustle” lifestyle can often be overwhelming. I wanted to provide our guests ways to disconnect from their busy lives and experience Kaiyo’s food and cocktails in a memorable way. Peru being so close to the Amazon, I drew my design and atmosphere inspirations from the lush greenery setting the Amazon is known for. We like to think of KAIYŌ Rooftop as a tropical oasis that evokes a feeling of vacation or escapism.
There aren’t many rooftops in SF — how do you plan on taking advantage of that?
Being a rooftop bar in SF already sparks immediate interest with the locals but when you add the sweeping views of the SF downtown skyline and the Bay Bridge, it really stirs up a lot of excitement and buzz. Often I remind my management team, “let’s not forget, eventually this view will get old. Let the beauty of the space draw our customers in but let’s keep them coming back by offering crave-able food and cocktails and providing memorable guest service.”
Was it tough to snag such a prime rooftop spot in the first place?
The landlords reached out to me so it was not necessarily hard to “snag” this space. However, the work I put in to create a portfolio of great cocktails bars and a restaurant concept was very tough. I do believe it was the hard work and the creative brands I own and manage is what brought me to this unique property.
Talk about the cuisine — there aren’t too many places specializing in Peruvian Nikkei. What exactly is it? Why is it unique?
The story of Peruvian Nikkei isn’t anything new. Diasporas have been cooking traditional dishes with local and available ingredients in their community forever. Similarly, Japanese immigrants migrated to Peru in the early 1900’s. They settled and quickly noticed the abundance of fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits that existed in Peru. Wanting to cook for the local Peruvians, Japanese immigrants prepared traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients.
Unlike other cuisines that evolved from diasporas, Peruvian Nikkei is truly unique due to the synergy between the two cultures and cuisines. Japanese cuisine was already seafood driven but when the lush abundance of fruits & vegetables were introduced, it truly created an explosion of unique flavors that can only be 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, mainly because there isn’t a strong identity nor understanding what exactly Nikkei inspired cocktails are in this world. Our interpretation of Nikkei cocktails was almost a blank canvas.
Working with savory ingredients like miso and infusing spirits with Peruvian peppers and balancing it with Japanese and Peruvian fruits was a dream. I believe we are just scratching the surface when it comes to Nikkei cocktails. Everyday we are finding creative ideas and approaches to delicious, unique, and creative Nikkei cocktails with so many ingredients we can work with!
How has the reception been?
Few words come to mind. Amazing! Craziness! And Humbled! We have been extremely busy since our opening day. Our books have filled up 30 days out within the same day we took our reservation link live. We are truly excited and humbled by the enthusiasm and interest for Kaiyo Rooftop!
Stay up-to-date on my food-filled adventures and travels on my Instagram, @cheycheyfromthebay.