Sake expert Alyssa Mikiko DiPasquale, an alum of the Cushman Concepts restaurant group (O Ya, Hojoko, etc.), is bringing her virtual sake pop-up, the Koji Club, to life as a brick-and-mortar sake bar this fall. It’ll be located at the under-construction Speedway marketplace in Brighton, which is transforming the former Charles River Speedway Headquarters administration buildings at 525 Western Ave. (Salem’s Notch Brewing is also opening an outpost there, along with Somerville’s Tipping Cow ice cream shop and other food and retail vendors yet to be announced.)
DiPasquale — who holds Advanced Sake Professional certification and was part of the 2013 class of Eater Young Guns, which honored 15 industry up-and-comers across the country — had been planning on opening a sake bar prior to the pandemic, but 2020 necessitated that dreaded word, a pivot. She launched the Koji Club online in June 2020, offering themed sake tastings virtually. Customers would pick up curated selections of sake at OddFellows Ice Cream Co. or Rebel Rebel and then tune into a Zoom session with DiPasquale and other participants to taste and discuss.
“I have wanted this for so long,” DiPasquale tells Eater. “This is really my dream come true, and I’m very grateful I have the opportunity to share sake in a new way with Boston.” She’s thrilled to be opening at the Speedway, which she thinks will be an “amazing dynamic marketplace” when it opens later this year.
“The moment I saw the space, I knew it was the space,” DiPasquale says. “The amazing job that the Speedway did preserving the materials — the space just looks like an old Japanese tavern in Kyoto.” Drinkers will see a number of “amazing natural architectural elements,” including a stone wall, dark wood natural beams, and reclaimed wood French doors. “The whole property is stunning,” says DiPasquale, “and this one little corner of it just felt so right to me.”
The opening of a brick-and-mortar space doesn’t mean the end of the Koji Club’s meetings and subscription service; starting in July, those will live at the Urban Grape in Boston’s South End. DiPasquale will also be popping up around the East Coast all summer to introduce the Koji Club to sake lovers (and sake lovers-to-be) at venues such as Tiger Mama in Boston, Rebel Rebel in Somerville, Mr. Tuna in Portland, Oddfellows Ice Cream Co. in Brooklyn, and beyond. Plus, DiPasquale will be curating the sake selection at the forthcoming East Boston market EBO & Co., from East Boston Oysters’s Alexis Cervasio. That might open in July or August, as Cervasio told Eater in late April.
Keep an eye on the Koji Club’s Instagram account for updates on upcoming pop-ups and other news leading up to the fall 2021 opening in Brighton. “I’m really excited to pour a glass of sake for everyone in the city of Boston,” says DiPasquale.