By: Kendall Louis
Two years ago this month, tragedy struck Tokyo Café when damage from an early morning fire forced the restaurant to shutter. Although renovations were originally planned to take six to twelve months, loyal patrons began to worry whether they’d ever again enjoy Tok fries and katsu pork when the building sat vacant much longer than anticipated.
The Camp Bowie favorite first opened in 1997, and Jarry Ho took the reins from his parents in 2002, later joined by his wife Mary. The couple has since opened two other Fort Worth restaurants, Shinjuku Station and Cannon Chinese Kitchen.
In the intervening months, Jarry has been updating dedicated Tokyo followers on social media, and now it looks like their patience is finally paying off. The restaurant is scheduled to reopen in June, and it promises an interesting mix of new and familiar for its returning patrons.
“The interior is going to be completely new,” Jarry says. “But we want to keep the culture the same—casual and family-friendly.”
Joe Self’s Firm817, the architects behind Grace Restaurant, handled the redesign. They reimagined Tokyo Café as a “modern farmhouse” with a design focused on function and flow to ensure a “delightful patron experience.”
“The existing building was essentially a ranch-style domestic form, and we kept to that since it evokes an intimacy associated with domestic settings,” Self says. “The various window sizes are intended to create unique and unexpected views from inside to out. Jarry picked up on this and added the window pattern to the large dining area.”
Beckley Design Studio has given Tokyo a modern yet quirky interior to match the restaurant’s casual personality. Designed with a restrained palette and wood finishes, the new dining room also includes some “fun and playful takes on Japanese culture.”
“I think patrons will be pleasantly surprised,” says Kelley Roberts of Beckley. “They will recognize some elements that were there before—like the paper lanterns. We reference the original look but update it.”
The new Tokyo will serve cocktails, and Jarry promises the menu will stay casual and playful with “food made for sharing.”
“We’ll start with a conservative menu of Tokyo favorites and then bring out new offerings,” Jarry explains.
Tokyo fans may recognize familiar faces among the staff, most notably, Chef de cuisine Kevin Martinez. Martinez (a Fort Worth, Texas magazine Top Chef contender) has worked at Tokyo for several years, and although he now has a successful venture in Yatai Food Kart, he’s excited to return to his “home” kitchen. He plans on making ramen a staple menu item and offering a more seasonal menu.
“We want to bring back what everyone in the neighborhood grew up eating,” he says. “The rebuild enables us to serve our guests better and more efficiently. Our plan is to be a positive influence in the neighborhood, and our customers can grow with us.”
Jarry and Martinez agree they want Tokyo to continue to be the fun, family place it was before, as well as adding new elements like monthly movie nights and opportunities for budding student chefs.
When asked about plans for the opening, Jarry laughs, “I joked with Mary that we should just put out the open sign and see what happens.”
Jarry may be pleasantly surprised how many people are counting the days until that light comes back on.
By: Kendall Louis