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Tsukiji-brand high-end donburi to go

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By Elli Sekine

The SOMA District, located in the south of San Francisco’s financial district, has been having a construction rush in the past 10 years, and high-rise buildings are being built one after another. Most of the new tenants of those new buildings are IT or finance-related business people. Especially growing lately are IT related startup businesses. During the lunch hours, the district is filled with those IT people who go have lunch, and in the evening, a younger generation of IT engineers with their laptops in their backpacks start to flow out toward the nearby train stations. On 2nd Street which is the center point of those stations, many eateries that mainly sell quick to-go lunch items stand. The key phrase is “Time saver”. Some newer places are even using high technologies fully to achieve no-man cafes. Among those, there is one gaining popularity with its high-end poppy-designed sushi donburis to attract young people. It is “The Grubbies”.

When I was walking down the street of business offices, a very noticeable and stylish sign that says “Tsukiji no Donburimono” in Japanese caught my eyes, and I stopped in front of it. Americans probably don’t know what the sign says. Under the Japanese words, it says “The Grubbies” in small letters, which appears to be the name of the restaurant. Its nostalgic, yet poppy appearance was appealing to me, and I peeked inside. There were no tables, but a small counter space in a pathway where even one person can barely walk through. It is so small that maximum of 4 people can barely fit. Everyone who bought bento there comes out carrying a stylish furoshiki wrapping. This is a brand-new style to-go sushi bento specialty store. The menu items with photographs are shown under the sign. The quality and the price are like those of a high-end sushi restaurant. The signature bento “Chef’s Choice” (9 to 10 kinds of sashimi slices + sushi rice, miso soup, and seaweed) is $35, Uni donburi ($40~), Mini hotate donburi with scallops and salmon eggs from Hokkaido ($23), Toro donburi ($28), etc., are far from ordinary bento level. I asked what kind of people would buy those. They said that they make a daily limit of 50 meals, which sell out every day. Surprisingly, I heard that the most of them are sold during lunch hours. I assume that the aimed customers are IT people, and if so, it is understandable that the Tsukiji brand sushi donburi can be so popular, and those high prices acceptable.

The IT bubbling trend in Silicon Valley is directly attacking San Francisco. Ever-growing IT-related businesses in the Financial District are making maximum efforts in lunch services in order to motivate employees, and for better work efficiency. In the early stage of the startup businesses, the companies would give to a small number then, and unexpendable employees extra money for lunch and/or dinner, and when the number of employees grow to be more than 100, or even 200, many of those companies will start facilitating them with a nice cafeteria, or offer catering service for lunch and snack times. For the IT industry, which requires speedy growth, saving time for lunch is a must, and a good menu is a necessary tool to satisfy employees.

Who triggered this business is also a startup team of people of the young generation. They created a platform from where people can easily order sushi through an application, and pick it up quickly. Moreover, they use poppy illustrations and high-end images for the place to attract IT people. Additionally, there is an advantage as for the business structure. Because of the nature of its cuisine style, which is raw, and not cooked with fire, it does not require a big kitchen space to function, and relatively easy to apply as a restaurant space. What’s more important is where to get fish from, and how to get staff who can handle fish. They get fresh fish daily from Tsukiji and local markets alternately. In the day time, they also cater to business offices.

Well, how about the value? Unwrapping the fancy furoshiki reveals a pack of the main sashimi selection, colorfully and nicely laid out in a thin square wooden box.

In addition, a set with sushi rice, miso soup, and nori appears. It looks beautiful and gets you excited. However, the sashimi pieces are on vegetables, so you need to move them onto rice to make a donburi. In the process, you end up rearranging the nicely presented sashimi, and the box of rice is too small to put the entire fish on. You could move them to a third container of yourself (which is big enough), but if you do, it would eliminate its goodness and convenience as a to-go meal. After all, it was not a chirashi donburi I was imagining, and I had to alternately eat sashimi and rice separately. The quality of sashimi was good, but the vegetable underneath was hard and not easy to chew. Personally, I think it is better if the food was served in the form of a pre-arranged bowl.

Most of the regular customers of this place have downloaded the lunch to-go application on their smartphones. Pre-ordering lets them achieve time saving, and proceed with work smoothly. The concept which “The Grubbies” team aimed, and realized, “a new sushi business that nobody has done before, and lunch that is high quality, and no waiting time to acquire”, is very effective in the IT industry. They have become a poppy sushi lunch icon of the SOMA District.


築地ブランドの高級丼ぶりTO GO

サンフランシスコ金融街の南に位置するSOMA地区はこの10 年、建設ラッシュが続き、高層ビルが次々と立ち続けている。新しいビルのテナントに入るのはほとんどがIT、金融関連で、最近特に増えているのがIT 系スタートアップ企業だ。昼間はランチを求めるIT ピープルで賑わい、夕方になるとバックパックにパソコンを入れた若い世代のエンジニアたちが駅に向かって流れ出す。各駅の中間地点となる2nd ストリートには、彼らが利用するサッと持ち帰り食べれるランチをメインとする飲食店が並んでいる。キーワードは時短。中には無人カフェなどテクノロジーを駆使したランチスポットも登場している。

 先日、オフィス街を歩いていた際、一際目立つ「築地の丼物」というスタイリッシュな文字の看板の前で足が止まった。おそらくアメリカ人には何が書いてあるのかはわからない。その下に小さく「The Grubbies」とあるが、どうやらこれが店名のようだ。私はレトロでポップな外観に惹かれ、中を覗いてみた。そこにはテーブルなどはなく、人一人がやっと入れるような通路に小さなカウンターがあるだけ。4 人も入るといっぱいになるような狭さだ。ここから弁当を買って帰る人は皆オシャレな風呂敷包を抱えている。ここは、 オフィスランチで人気を伸ばしている高級寿司丼TOGO 店、「The Grubbies」だ。看板の上には写真付きメニューリストがあるが、そのクオリティと価格は高級寿司屋並み。シグニチャー弁当、「Chef’s Choice」( 9~ 10種類の刺身盛り+鮨飯、味噌汁、海苔付き)は$35、他にウニ丼($40 ~)、北海道産のホタテとイクラのミニ帆立丼($23)トロ丼($28)など、もはや弁当の域を超えている。いったいどんな人が買うのだろうと尋ねると、限定50 食は毎日完売しているという。そのほとんどはランチタイムで、IT 企業の従業員、出張者向けが多数をしめる。ターゲットがIT ピープルと想定すれば、築地ブランドの寿司丼人気とその価格にも納得がいく。

 シリコンバレーのIT バブルはSF を直撃している。金融街に増え続けるIT 関連会社では、従業員の仕事の意欲と効率性を上げる為、ランチサービスにあらゆる工夫をしている。スタートアップ初期の頃は、まだ少ない貴重な従業員にランチやディナーの補助金を出したり、従業員規模が100 人、200 人と成長すれば必然的にカフェテラスを充実させ、ランチやスナックは専門のマネージャーがケータリングを斡旋する所が多い。スピード成長を求められるIT 企業にとってランチタイムの時短は必須。そしてメニューは従業員を満足させる為に不可欠なツールとなっているようだ。

 このビジネスの仕掛け人は、やはり若い世代のスタートアップチーム。彼らは寿司を気軽にアプリから注文、敏速にランチをTO GO できるプラットフォームを作り、店舗にはポップなイラストや高級イメージでIT ピープル達を惹きつけている。また、ビジネス構築として火を使わない生もの料理なので、キッチンは狭くても機能でき、飲食店としての申請も比較的容易という利点がある。重要なのは仕入れ先と魚を捌くスタッフだ。魚は築地とローカルから日替わりで新鮮なネタを仕入れ、昼間は企業へのケータリングも行っている。

さて、そのバリューはいかに。おしゃれな風呂敷を解けば、四角の薄い木箱に彩りよく並べられたメインの刺身のパック、別に鮨飯のパック、味噌汁、海苔のセットが付いてきた。見た目は綺麗でテンションが上がる。しかし刺身は野菜の上に並べられているので、丼にするには刺身をご飯の方に移す必要があるが、そうすると綺麗に盛られた魚の並びを崩すことになるし、飯の箱は小さいので魚は入りきれない。できれば第3 の容器に移し替えれば良いのだが、そうするとToGo の意味が無くなる。結局、想像していたチラシ丼ではなく、刺身とシャリを交互に食べるしかなかった。刺身のネタの質は良いだが、魚の下に敷いている野菜は硬くて食べづらい。個人的には最初から丼になっていた方が親切という感想だ。
 ここの常連客のほとんどは、スマホにランチtogoアプリを入れている。予め注文する事で時短ができ仕事もスムースに進む。「まだ誰もやったことがない寿司ビジネス。質がよく待ち時間ゼロのランチ」を目指した「The Grubbies」チームの発想は、金融街、SOMA で効果覿面。SOMA地区のポップな寿司ランチのアイコンとなっている。



The Grubbies
Store 1 /303 Sacramento St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
Store 2 / 123 2nd St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 757-0887
https://www.thegrubbiescorp.com/
EZ eater www.ezcater.com/
catering/the-grubbies
Mon.-Fri. 11:00am-1:30pm
5:00pm-7:30pm
Sat. and Sun. closed
#alljapannews #tsukiji #donburi #SF #Grubbies #Sacramento #Japanese #lunch

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