December 2013

Art and Sushi, at Moshi Moshi

Deepti Diwakar

Dogpatch was more than two decades away from its current resurgence when Misturu (Mits) Akashi converted an old bar into a Japanese restaurant, Moshi Moshi in the mid-1980s. Located on Third Street, over the years the establishment has evolved into a neighborhood institution, where sushi, fine art, and cocktails can be enjoyed in equal measure.

A visit to the restaurant last month found that the restaurant’s entryway featured a brightly lit seating area, with art by Kristina Lazar, who works day jobs as a bartender and personal trainer. Lazar’s art is lively, flowing with colors that match the space’s ambiance.

Moving into the restaurant, there’s a darker seating area, which creates a kind of movie theatre effect. The art in this space, by Tom Sepe, a fine artist and a graphic lighting designer, is dark and deep. His paintings, barely visible in the dim, seem to take the form of Rorschach ink blot-like figures; introverted and soothingly serene.

“Our art is open” said John Conditt, who manages the establishment. “We at Moshi Moshi do not have a too specific or political point of view. We are not actively promoting local art, but are becoming excited with the idea.” Akashi regularly asks his customers to express their reactions to the artwork.

Born in Hayward, Mits was interned in a War Relocation Camp during World War II. When he turned 18 he was drafted into the U.S. military. After his discharge, in the 1960s he worked as a bartender, and dreamt of having a Japanese restaurant. When he first opened Moshi Moshi he brought Japanese chefs to cook there, an effort at authenticity that continues. “Our GM, Larry Lighthill, and Mits had been to Kyoto recently, to be inspired to make Moshi Moshi more ‘Japanese-like,” said Condit. This Japanese feeling can perhaps be best experienced on the patio, which is open to sky.

A short story writer and actor, Conditt has been working at Moshi Moshi since New Year’s Eve of 1999. “Art here, I would say, is Organic Art. We usually rotate the art work every six months.”

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