Sampling Wenzhou cuisine

We were lucky enough last weekend to meet with Carol and Max and their new staff for the soft opening of their new restaurant, Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More.

Now, it’s easy for a westerner to think of Chinese food as a single category. We tend to have more experience with Cantonese cuisine, and for many North Americans, that is the definition of “Chinese Food”. In reality, there are many, many varieties of Chinese food. Some of us may be aware of the famously spicy Szechuan cuisine.

Enter Wenzhou and its cuisine. I am no expert on it – yet – but at least one dish is new to me: “Knock (or Knocked) Fish Soup”. This is made from boneless fish that has been flattened (and tenderized) by pounding and sliced into noodle-like ribbons. This is served in a lightly-flavored soup with noodles. Side condiments include white pepper and rice vinegar. Subtle and delicious!

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When we arrived at Wenzhou for the soft opening, they had been mobbed by local Wenzhou-ese and had already run out of Knock Fish. Instead, we were treated to fish ball soup, jiaozi (gyoza or pot stickers), stuffed pita, a kind of Chinese black sesame mochi, and something I wasn’t expecting: chop suey!

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Chop suey is, of course, not a native Chinese dish, but was evolved by the Chinese who came to California during the Gold Rush. It is typically based around stir-fried vegetables. This is what we see advertised in an old photo of the Ken Ying Low building on Sixth Street in San Jose’s Japantown.

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Dick’s Market

This is a little removed physically from Japantown per se, but it’s very interesting, and potentially very valuable to local residents.

New plans floated for old-school San Jose motel

This is located on 4th Street, between 880 to the north and Barrett Middle school to the south.

This deserves some research, but the motel renovation may be contingent on the market next door being brought out of mothballs.

If it does become some sort of grocery again, it would bring the surrounding neighborhood out of “Food Desert” status.

It’s also next door to the long-empty Dick’s Market, more recently open as Truong Hung market.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Dick’s+supermarket+on+Fourth+Street.-a0425914638

Good news for the Nishioka building!

Yesterday, I finally met the new owners of the Nishioka building!
I have some very interesting news to share, but I caution you all: it’s VERY preliminary.

The new owners plan to restore the building and convert into a performance space. There may even be a spot for Empire Seven studios, since apparently they are faced with moving out of the space that they currently occupy.

Personally, I want to see more about this before I get too excited about it. But the really good news is that the beautiful old brick building is NOT facing the wrecking ball. Hooray!

How much retail space is that?

Now we are awaiting the final plan from Related California, WDA and Ken Kay for the Corp Yard/Heinlenville/Japantown Square development – and it should be soon – let’s look at one of the potential opportunities that this development might provide.

Looking at the official Japantown Square website, I see the following suggestion:

Up to 20,300 square feet of new neighborhood-serving commercial space.

I’m definitely interested in visualizing what that might look like. It’s tricky for most of us to imagine what kind of stores or restaurants would fill 20,300 square feet. A tiny curio shop and the smallest sushi bar or something the size of a Walmart!? (Just kidding there.)

Here’s an interesting visual, found at How Big are Big-Box Stores?

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Wal-Mart and Target are currently building “supercenters,” which combine their usual array of merchandise with a full supermarket and numerous specialty services from cut flowers to eye glasses. Supercenters typically range from 180,000 to 250,000 square feet, or between 4.1 to 5.7 acres. The parking lots that surround these stores are several times the size of the store itself. Many other big box retail stores—including earlier-generation Wal-Mart outlets, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.—are in the 60,000 to 140,000 square foot range. Barnes & Noble and Borders Books stores range from 25,000 to 45,000 square feet, or about the size of a very large supermarket. Free-standing chain drugstores operated by Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS are generally 11,000-15,000 square feet.

As for independent retailers, there’s quite a range. Many Main Street stores are under 1,000 square feet. A full-service neighborhood grocery store might be 10,000 square feet. Locally owned hardware stores generally range from 2,000 to 20,000 square feet. An independent bookstore might be 1,500 square feet.

A growing number of cities and towns are adopting store size caps to ensure that new retail development is scaled appropriately for the community and does not overwhelm the local economy or exacerbate sprawl and traffic congestion. Most communities choose an upper limit of between 35,000 and 75,000 square feet.

I just want to leave you with that. The hypothetical discussion was about Nijiya market moving to a larger facility on the corp yard grounds. Their current building covers a little less than 10,000 square feet, so this alone would be quite a bounty. They could bring it up to the size of their store in Mountain View – leaving their current property open to use for – who knows?