A new sushi omakase restaurant is opening in East Austin this week. Toshokan will debut within East Austin space the Native on 807 East Fourth Street starting on Wednesday, March 2. Reservations for the month of March will be available starting tonight at midnight on Tuesday, March 1.
Toshokan’s omakase is Japanese-style while making use of global ingredients, influences, and techniques (the name is the Japanese word for “library”). This new venture is helmed by co-partners C.K. Chin (who is also a partner at Native) and chef Saine Wong. The restaurant’s 14-course oft-changing meal will span nigiri such as Hawaiian kampachi, potato pave topped with a Korean braised short rib, Hokkaido scallops with a Peruvian salsa verde, to aguachile made with botan ebi. Drinks will include Japanese whiskys, sake pairings, sake cocktails, and Japanese beers.
To source produce, the restaurant teamed up with local farm Urban American Farmer, where the team is growing their own stuff. That includes herbs, radicchio, peppers, and tomatoes. The menu is “micro-ultra-local,” as Chin describes it.
Los Angeles-born-and-raised Wong attended culinary school Le Cordon Bleu in Miami, and has worked at restaurants such as Gatten Sushi and Little Bear. He traveled around the world in 2018 for 18 months where he explored cuisines and food cultures in 26 countries.
Wong met Chin while he was cooking at Los Angeles-import Sushi|Bar ATX in May 2021 when they began to talk about opening something together. Chin didn’t want to open a traditional edomae or kaiseki-style sushi bar, as he explained to Eater, pointing to other local restaurants that do those well, such as Tsuke Edomae and Otoko. Rather, Toshokan is their way of honoring Japanese cuisine through their experiences, especially as people of Chinese descent. “When you’re six seats, you’re not in competition with anybody,” he says. “this is a love song written by the chef.”
Sushi also isn’t a new thing for Chin. He had been a managing partner for now-closed restaurant Imperia and general manager for pan-Asian restaurant Kenichi back in the day. He remains a co-founder of New American restaurant Swift’s Attic and modern Chinese restaurant Wu Chow.
Toshokan’s physical space is a former bedroom in the Native, accessible through a bookcase. There will be two seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. from Wednesdays through Saturdays, limited to six people each. While reservations for March will be available starting tonight at midnight, going forward, reservations will open on the first of every month for the following month. The dinners are $125 per person.
The Native ceased functioning as a hostel at the beginning of the pandemic, temporarily operated as monthly apartment rentals for a bit, and then just straight-up turned the rooms into business spaces, including Eastend Tattoos. While the bar remains open, the on-site restaurant has since closed, but there are plans to add food trucks after South by Southwest. And while Creature Coffee closed up its cafe space in the hostel, Idlewild will take over that section sometime in March.