The band, under the direction of Kevin Chapman, recently beat 20 other ensembles to take top honors at the TCU Jazz Festival on just an hour of rehearsal a week. (Which means these kids must be putting in a appreciable amount of time in the woodshed.) They played arrangements that were definitely not "for dummies" level, with a fair degree of elan and, dare I say, swing. There were even credible soloists among 'em. They might just be the best band I've heard at Central Market this year.
This evening, my sweetie 'n' I toddled over to Fairmount to partake of the soft opening of Shinjuku Station, the new venture of Tokyo Cafe owners Jarry and Mary Ho, located at 711 Magnolia, near the corner of Magnolia and Hemphill. I expected the menu to be more traditional than Tokyo Cafe's fare, and indeed, you won't find any, um, rolls with avocado in them that you might be accustomed to eating at the Cafe and elsewhere. But the menu at Shinjuku is also full of the kind of next-level fusion creations that chef Kevin Martinez has been dishing up at Tokyo, including "chef's special rolls" that don't even have names yet and change nightly, and a number of vegetarian options.
Some highlights of our dinner tonight included tempura king crab with masago aioli; okonomiyaki or "Japanese pizza" with pork belly, pickled ginger and nori; and sake steamed mussels in yuzu butter (the broth to which is a great finish poured over white rice). Have to wait until next time to sample the seared baby octopus. Black sesame ice cream was a nice surprise for dessert. The space looks inviting, with bare brick walls and an old safe which now serves as a knife cabinet for the small kitchen. Plenty of seating on an outdoor patio, too. Service was friendly and attentive in a way that we think will survive when they're slammed. There was already a wait by the time we left; a portent of good things to come. "Soft opening" runs through Saturday, 6.11.2011. You owe it to yourself.
ADDENDUM: My sweetie just used the term "Japanese tapas," which I thought was pretty apt. The other thing that might take some getting used to is the sharing of plates that's at the core of Shinjuku Station's concept, and the way Japanese people really dine. Also, everything's a la carte -- even rice. Prices are still reasonable, though, for what you get.