Eiko’s Restaurant at 1385 Napa Town Center (First Street near Franklin) just celebrated its one year anniversary on June 24th. Eiko’s is a labor of love for managing partner Rick Zaslove and his wife Nancy. His partners in the business, Eiko Nakamura and his brother and sister-in-law, Mike and Jeannie Zaslove have participated in the vision of Eiko’s since it was conceptualized almost 2 years ago.
Although he’s spent almost forty years in the lumber business, Zaslove’s whole life has prepared him to open an outstanding restaurant. “I took my first cooking class my freshman year at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, CA, and cooked for my four brothers all the time.” His church hosted lots of meals, and as a child, Zaslove was often in the kitchen. “The adults made sure they paired the food they made with the right wines. Even as a kid, that attention to the whole meal wasn’t lost on me, and influenced my later becoming a lover of great cuisine.”
His best experience for the restaurant business comes from having been a diner in hundreds of restaurants over the years. “In my business, I eat out all the time, practically every day. I love all kinds of food and have tried restaurants all over the world.” Zaslove is not just your average casual diner – he constantly analyses the restaurants he visits, studying décor, quality of ingredients, how the menu is laid out, customer service – the total package – and how that equates to a good dining experience. Zaslove almost can’t help but look at things analytically – he is president of Golden State Lumber, a company he’s been with for twenty six years, and has a strong business background. “My love and experience with food and my business knowledge has served me well in opening a restaurant.”
The idea for Eiko’s originated when Eiko Nakamura mentioned to Zaslove that she was thinking about making a change to her restaurant, Fujiya’s, which she had operated for twenty three years. Zaslove had been a customer for a long time, and loved the quality of fresh fish and homemade ingredients. “I didn’t want to just recreate her restaurant,” he said, “but wanted to capture certain elements of it. Her amazing staff. Some of her signature sauces and dishes. The ambiance and karma of Fujiya.”
Zaslove found the perfect Executive Chef to execute his vision when he met Jake Rand. Rand majored in Japanese in college at the University of Colorado. He apprenticed at Sushi Den Restaurant, a Denver landmark for almost 30 years. Rand, went on to open sushi bars in the Denver area including one in the 5 Diamond Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Rand’s daily goal is, “to anticipate our customers’ needs and exceed their expectations. We prepare great sushi and intriguing interpretations of modern Japanese food .’” One example is a recent weekly special, Local Halibut and Manila Clams with and Heirloom Tomato Broth with Tender Artichokes with Yuzu-Cilantro Aioli. “We do weekly, rather than daily specials, so Jake and his staff can create something truly special, and so that diners who might miss it on Sunday can still enjoy it on Thursday,” said Zaslove.
Rand said that Eiko’s tagline, “Modern Japanese Cuisine,” is both a nod to their commitment to a fully developed menu, and to the Napa farm-to-table philosophy. Almost all produce is local, and much of the fish is sustainable.
Monday through Friday, Eiko’s hosts a social hour from 4 to 6 p.m., which includes specially priced beers, cocktails and wine with a unique Japanese tapas menu. “Our customers love the new vibe at Eiko’s and asked us to offer something between lunch and dinner,” said Zaslove.
Zaslove wants Eiko’s to be a family restaurant, and for that reason, he was pleased when Alisha Shopp, Assistant General Manager and Beverage Director joined the staff. “I started working in my family’s restaurant when I was eight,” said Shopp, “And I understand how important it is when the staff is like a family. Eiko’s is that kind of place. We are not stuffy. Guests can come here and feel welcomed and relaxed, as well as enjoying what they eat and drink.”
Zaslove reiterated what she said. “Eiko’s is definitely family oriented. “We love serving Napa visitors, but this place is for the locals first and foremost. I live here, and I love seeing people on the street who tell me how much they like Eiko’s. That kind of feeling is what drives my passion for the restaurant.”
Eiko’s is open seven days a week. Eikosnapa.com or 501-4444.
Downtown Napa • 1385 First St • 501.4444
http://www.eikosnapa.com • facebook.com/eikosnapa