Bethany Clough

Eating Out: Ginza opening in north Fresno, more details on The Landmark

Ginza Asian Bistro at Palm and Nees is an Asian fusion restaurant with a sushi bar and Japanese grill.
Ginza Asian Bistro at Palm and Nees is an Asian fusion restaurant with a sushi bar and Japanese grill.

An empty restaurant in northwest Fresno has had a massive makeover and is scheduled to make its debut this week.

Ginza Asian Bistro takes the place of the former Roe at Palm and Nees avenues.

The restaurant, at 7845 Palm Ave., is part Japanese grill, part sushi bar and part upscale Asian restaurant.

And it looks totally different than its predecessor.

Restaurant and nightclub Roe closed after its New Year’s bash in 2013 and a string of issues, including suspension of its liquor license and a shooting outside the business.

So its landlord and Ginza’s owner wanted a fresh start. They overhauled the inside of the restaurant, replacing flooring, ripping out and replacing seating and redoing the space in shades of navy and warm wood.

“Basically, we changed everything,” says owner Jin “Ethan” Lin.

A new water fountain on a wall greets customers as they come in. A few new giant booths can seat eight to 10 people. Modern metal spheres of art hang over tables like chandeliers. Even the exterior and the bathrooms are different.

Ginza is named after an upscale district in Japan.

If the name Lin sounds familiar, it’s because the family owns Lin’s Fusion, the Chinese buffet on Blackstone Avenue north of Shaw Avenue.

But Ginza is no buffet.

Instead, it’s a blend of Thai, Korean, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. A Manhattan chef, Kevin Yang, will man the hibachi grill and oversee the menu.

In addition to sushi, noodle and rice dishes, specialties include filet mignon, lamb dishes and Singapore curry duck – roast duck stir fried with curry sauce and vegetables.

The restaurant has a regular bar for drinks, a sushi bar and the Japanese-style grill you’re familiar with from teppanyaki restaurants. Customers can sit around the grill and watch as a chef prepares their food and plays with fire.

And while most grills have big metal hoods in the ceiling above them to whisk away smoke, this one doesn’t. A fan-like architectural element is on the ceiling instead. The grill has a horizontal air-circulating system to take care of smoke.

Ginza will have specials daily, including a gentleman’s night on Mondays with $2 tequilas and bourbons, and ladies’ night on Wednesdays with 30 percent off desserts. (Anybody can partake in the specials regardless of gender. “We just named it ladies night to impress them,” he says.)

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Check Ginza’s Facebook page for an exact opening date.

The Landmark

Last week’s news that restaurant and bar The Landmark is getting a new owner had the Tower District all atwitter.

I got a chance to chat with new owner TJ Bruce as he was driving to Fresno to learn a little more about his plans for the longtime Tower anchor.

For now, it will remain named The Landmark. He is planning to change the menu soon, switching from old school Basque dining to more of a “burgers and brews” restaurant. It won’t be fast food, but still high-quality dining, he says. (And if you love The Landmark’s food, fear not. The sellers of the business still own nearby Livingstone’s restaurant and bar and have said they’ll probably bring a few Landmark favorites to their menu.)

The Tower District is just amazing. I think it has a lot of potential.

TJ Bruce

One burning question a lot of people have is: Will the Landmark be turned into a gay bar?

That question comes about because Bruce owns The Depot, a “gay bar that’s very friendly to straight people,” and neighboring Badlands nightclub in midtown Sacramento. He’s also opening a Hamburger Mary’s there, and owns gay bar and night club Splash in San Jose.

They’re upscale places that welcome all kinds of people, not dive bars in dark alleys or secret gay clubs with passwords, Bruce jokes.

You can tell he doesn’t like that people are hung up on labeling The Landmark a gay bar or not.

But to answer the question, yes, while he does plan to bring some of what he’s done in Sacramento to Fresno, “it’s really less about turning it into a gay bar and really creating an amazing space that welcomes everybody,” he says.

More changes are brewing in Bruce’s mind, but since they’d need permits and city approval, they are a ways off.

Bruce is a contractor who has spent 30 years in the construction industry and says he sees potential in The Landmark property. He can envision adding on to the building and creating an even bigger outdoor dining space with palm trees.

And he’s considering turning The Landmark’s large back dining room into a dance club with top 40 music, especially on weekends when big events like the Zombie Crawl happen.

Overall, he draws a lot of parallels between the Tower District and the similar midtown neighborhood in Sacramento, which has had a lot of development in recent years. He says he can see that happening in Tower, too.

“I think there’s a ton of potential there,” he says. “I have a lot of drive and a lot of ideas and I really do like to see communities change.”

Blaze Pizza

The first Blaze Pizza in Fresno is open.

The customizable, personal-sized pizza place is at 1089 E. Shaw Ave., near First Street next to Wingstop.

Customers can pick from eight signature pizzas or build their own, choosing their own cheeses, sauce and toppings.

Blaze Pizza offers gluten-free crust and vegan cheese, along with good, old-fashioned pizza with pepperoni.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Pasadena-based Blaze is part of the personal pizza invasion of Fresno that’s happened in the last few years with competitors like Blast 825 Pizza (whose corporate headquarters are here in Fresno) and Pieology.

Blaze employees shout out a welcome as customers come in the door, use your name as they pass your pizza down the line and are quick to dish out compliments.

Customers choose from two kinds of dough (gluten free and regular), three kinds of sauce and eight kinds of cheeses (including a vegan cheese option). A huge array of toppings includes traditional ones, along with bacon, two kinds of meatballs and both chopped and whole roasted cloves of garlic.

Blaze opened another restaurant in Tulare and is planning more – at least two more in Fresno and three in Clovis, says manager Carlos Mejia.

Baskin Robbins

Visalia is getting another Baskin Robbins.

The ice cream shop will open at 5125 W. Goshen Ave. in December. The traditional ice cream shop will also make custom ice cream cakes, milkshakes, floats and other frozen drinks.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough