Tim and Nancy Cushman are synonymous with three letters in Boston: O Ya. But for Hojoko, their izakaya, or casual Japanese pub, opening in late July at the Verb Hotel, they’re focused on three other letters: F-U-N.
“There’s a lot of different sides to Japanese culture, but one of them is having a ton of fun. They like to go out and let loose and just kind of rock and roll. Actually, they are into rock and roll,” Tim says. “It was really all that inspiration to open a really fun, high-energy, everyday type of restaurant.”
Hojoko will get a dose of energy from the Verb, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open from the restaurant to the buzzing pool deck outside. The tabletops inside the 100-seat spot are a mix of brightly colored patterns and dark woods, while Japanese movie posters and album covers that the Cushmans have collected over the past five years line the walls. In keeping with the music theme, there are plans for live gigs on a small portable stage in the restaurant. Musicians will include a couple of big acts a year as well as locals, with an emphasis on students from the local music schools—something that hits home for Tim, a Berklee alum.
“Nancy’s idea is to just have a triangle guy walking through the dining room,” Tim jokes. “But we’re going to have rock ’n’ roll and all kinds of stuff.”
Top billing, however, is reserved for the food. Hart Lowry, who has spent five years at O Ya, will helm the kitchen, turning out a variety of shareable plates. The menu will include sushi, sandwiches, fried food and fare cooked on a Japanese charcoal grill, such as pork and shrimp potstickers with a foie gras-umeboshi sauce, nori, sesame and yuzu powder.
There will be dozens of counter seats with views of the kitchen and the bar, which will offer a robust selection of sake, local and Japanese beer, and Old World and domestic wines. Cocktails will have a Japanese influence, with drinks such as the Tokyo Tea, which mixes tequila, lemon, green-tea syrup and bittered Midori, and the 5,6,7,8, featuring vodka, crème de violette, lemon and mango foam—and a name that nods to the Japanese band in Kill Bill. All the drinks “will have a smile,” part of a relaxed vibe that offers a counterpoint to the ultra-high-end O Ya.
“Not everyone ends up going to O Ya in Boston, so we hope this is a location and a concept where literally everyone in Boston has a chance to go,” Nancy says. “It’s going to be a lot of fun. You just walk in and feel a great energy in there. Hopefully, we’ll see smile after smile on people’s faces.”
Hojoko The Verb Hotel, 1271 Boylston St., Boston (617-670-0507) hojokoboston.com