At the end of August, Baku – Robata-Bar-Sushi -will open its doors at 4515 Sharon Road, directly across from the entrance to the Southpark Mall. A new restaurant concept for Charlotte, Baku will spotlight innovative Japanese comfort food meant to be shared around the table – a style that could be classified as Japanese Robata. The bar on the second floor, Baku Lounge will showcase signature cocktails and offer a hip, late night venue for Southpark.
The cuisine will be prepared in the open kitchen on Robata and Yakitori grills. The sushi and sashimi will be of the highest quality in exquisite plate presentations. There will be an extensive array of premium sakes, in addition to cocktails, the wine list, and beers on tap – all selected to pair perfectly with the cuisine. Chef Michael Shortino is the executive chef and chef Anoosh Shariat is the consulting culinary partner. Brad Byrd rounds out the Baku team as general manager.
Baku was designed by Jason Hood of the Charlotte firm Hood Architecture, and Scott Carpenter of SC Interiors was the interior designer. The restaurant’s two-story interior showcases earth tones of brown, clay and muted shades of green. The top floor is made of reclaimed wood from a 150 year-old bourbon distillery. The tabletops throughout the restaurant are bamboo. Another unique feature of Baku is the handcrafted metal work on the dramatic outdoor façade, indoor stair railing, and metal-wrapped bars on both floors. Following through on the emphasis of natural materials, the serving vessels for the restaurant’s cuisine are pottery with some coming from local artisans and others from Japan.
The entire restaurant and lounge will seat around 250 people, which includes 40 on what will arguably be one of the most appealing outdoor patios in the city. The first-floor bar accommodates 15 people and the upstairs bar, Baku Lounge, seats 50. The second floor is the location of the private dining room for up to 50 people. When it opens, the restaurant will be serving dinner seven days a week, and Saturday and Sunday brunch will be added shortly after opening.
Chef Shariat returns to Charlotte, where he worked for a number of years. Said Shariat, “Baku gives me an opportunity to open an exciting new culinary concept and return to a city I love. Baku will be a vibrant restaurant where family and friends can share a unique dining experience.”
Executive chef Shortino, a third generation chef, opened the first U.S. location (Scottsdale, Arizona) of the international award-winning London-based restaurant ROKA. He also opened the first RA Sushi which now has locations across the entire country. Commenting on Baku, he states, “I am extremely excited to be part of this restaurant that will give me a chance to use the freshest, top quality ingredients prepared on Robata and Yakatori grills. Patrons will be able to see into the open kitchen as we prepare their cuisine.” Both chefs are emphatic about utilizing the incredible bounty of produce and products from around Charlotte.
Robata means “around the fire.” It will be the signature cooking at the restaurant done on grills originally designed centuries ago that burn specially sourced charcoal at over 800 degrees that will give the food an appealing smoky flavor. The cuisine will be clean and simple with the complexity highlighted in the technique and plate presentation.
The Yakatori aspect of Baku will give guests a wide array of skewered meats and ingredients, all grilled on a grill constructed just for this type of preparation. While the cuisine will be authentic, it will not be traditional, thus allowing for the chefs to add their culinary interpretations and spotlight local Carolina growers and producers. Baku’s menu will be divided into a number of sections including: Robata Meats, Seafood, and Vegetables; Skewers; Tempura; Maki Rolls; Sushi/Sashimi; and Desserts. Specialty rice elements on the menu include rice risotto and black rice sushi. The shared and passed plate aspect of the menu is a concept that originates from Eastern culture, which includes the firm sense of hospitality that will be evident at Baku!