The historic Ace Hotel is opening its first location in Asia. Designed in partnership with architect Kengo Kuma and Commune Design, Ace Hotel Kyoto will open its doors for a preview period on June 11 before its full opening later this year.
At the helm of one of the hotel’s three upcoming restaurants is chef Naomi Pomeroy and husband/business partner Kyle Linden Webster of Beast and Expatriate fame. The restaurant, set to open sometime later this year, has yet to be named but will be a “tribute to American fare, with a range of modern and historically inspired dishes and drinks featuring seasonal local ingredients,” according to a press release.
Pomeroy has been a spokesperson of sorts for the current state of the Portland food industry, which is facing tremendous economic hardship as the nation and the globe continue to grapple with the far-reaching effects of the coronavirus. Back in March, she joined dozens of other Portland food folks to organize the Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance, which seeks to give those in the industry connections, information, and resources for these unprecedented times. Nationally, she's part of an elite team of advocates at the Independent Restaurant Coalition, lobbying alongside high-profile, nationally recognized food world figures like José Andrés and Tom Colicchio.
While some restaurants and bars in Oregon have opened their doors with restricted dine-in measures, her own restaurants, Beast and Expatriate, will have to change significantly when they reopen—likely not until August. Expatriate is a little easier, explains Pomeroy, but Beast is a whole different … beast.
“You can’t take a six-course tasting menu and suddenly put it in to-go boxes. Not only would it be ugly, but that’s just not the experience. So we’re having to really revamp and redefine what the experience of Beast is, and I’m really excited about it. It feels like an opportunity to me, not a hindrance,” she says.
At the new Ace Hotel Kyoto, Pomeroy’s eatery will be a sort of classic American steak house with Japanese influence. Imagine chicken katsu cutlets—halfway between a chicken katsu and club sandwich—and a dessert program focused on the most American of baked goods: pie. But breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus won’t stray too far from the attitude at her other establishments: adapting local, seasonal ingredients into richly crafted dishes.
Almost everything—smoked Wagyu pastrami eggs Benedict to seared duck breast to honey rooibos Pavlova—will have Japanese ingredients and technique incorporated. Take Pomeroy’s version of Japanese milk bread, or shokupan, for example. She takes the light, fluffy, sweet bread and puts her own spin on it with cocoa powder and brown sugar sourced from Okinawa. Part of Pomeroy’s deep love of Japanese culture and cooking, she says, comes from a Toshiba Foundation grant that encouraged her to develop and teach recipes that incorporate traditional Japanese ingredients with Western cooking techniques. And since her and Webster’s first visit to Japan in 2014, Pomeroy’s been developing a network of friends and colleagues, exploring Japan’s rich culture and deep history.
Webster, meanwhile, is heading up the restaurant’s bar program with a “1940s–1950s cocktail lounge feel.” It’ll be exciting to see what one of Portland’s most talented bartenders can dream up in Japan, a country with a serious, established cocktail scene. Says Pomeroy: “Japanese cocktail culture is enormous. It almost eclipses America. Japanese culture tends to take something from another place and make it 10,000 times better."
Also in the hotel: Mr. Maurice’s Italian, an Italian-American osteria with a rooftop bar by Philadelphia native Marc Vetri, and Piopiko, a cocktail bar and taco lounge serving up LA-based chef Wes Avila’s renowned international take on tacos. Both restaurants are set to open June 11. The hotel’s designer, Kengo Kuma, is the Japanese architect who designed the Portland Japanese Garden Cultural Village.
It’s all “pretty badass” to Pomeroy, who says she’s simply waiting to receive her call to go out to Kyoto. To her, the restaurant, its future chefs, and the entirety of this brand-new project all fit into one philosophy: “It’s taking this rich cultural heritage and working very hard to make something that fits beautifully inside it and alongside of it, and respecting that.”