Japanese Eatery ‘Hanami’ Set For May 15 Opening In Former Ben Franklin

Photo: The name is over the front door of the new restaurant in Cushing Square.

The Japanese phrase “Hanami” translates to “cherry blossom viewing,” which many Japanese do in April enjoying the transient beauty of the flowers which last no more than a week.

And that is what Jack Sy wants customers of his new restaurant Hanami to do; take in the atmosphere of the food and the surroundings at Cushing Square’s newest eatery, scheduled to open on May 15 pending approval from the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Sy, along with his attorney and business partner, came before the Select Board this past Monday requesting a full liquor license for the new establishment, which was unanimously approved. Days later, the restaurant’s name was hung on the lintel over the store front.

It’s been a bit of an adventure preparing the space for opening since Sy signed the lease in April 2022. Construction started in July last year, “but then we had a lot of issues with the contractors that held us back a little bit. It’s something you would expect during a period of pandemic as everyone was fighting over contractors,” said Sy.

The location has been the home of five and dime store for nearly 90 years. It first operated as a Ben Franklin franchise beginning in the 1930s before changing its name to Hollingsworth 5 and 10 in 2014, and finally as Belmont 5 and 10 before closing for good in August 2021.

Sy, a former financial analyst turned restauranteur who owns a number of eateries including the popular Number 1 Taste Chinese Food takeout also located on Trapelo Road.

The menu will include high-quality sushi and traditional Japanese dishes like Katsudon (pork cutlet rice bowl), Ramen noodles and Teppanyaki (sizzling hot plates) to your table. (Think Netflix’s ”Midnight Diner”.)

“It’s just not the sushi. I like sushi but then there’s time where I just want something cooked. Something delicious, something hot. Street food kind of cuisine.”

Diners shouldn’t be surprised finding creative tapas-styled dishes on the menu. Sy recently spent two weeks in Barcelona discovering many tapas bars have incorporated Asia spices and ingredients that are mixed in their seafood items, such as Japanese peppers mixed with calamari.

What To Know When Eating Out(side) In Belmont

Photo: Tables and chairs are ready for customers.

As more restaurants receive permits to serve outdoor meals, Belmont resident will have the chance to go out for a meal for the first time in three months. And there is a lot new for diners and eateries to know before servers approach their customers.

The most recognizable change is taking place in Belmont Center where the greatest concentration of eateries in town are located. The Select Board Monday, June 8 approved a plan to close Leonard Street between Moore Street and Alexander Avenue to increase outdoor seating areas for restaurants adversely impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown. Leonard Street will remain closed to all through traffic, with the exception of a 15-foot center lane to allow for the passage of emergency vehicles, delivery trucks,and MBTA buses, from June 11 until Sept. 8.

Restaurants in other locations will also be provided the opportunity to have outdoor seating on the sidewalks outside their establishments.

Below is a list of basic safety standards that restaurants must comply with in order to provide dining services at outdoor seating areas.

  • Tables must be positioned to maintain at least a 6-foot distance from all other tables and any high foot traffic areas. Tables may be positioned closer together if they are separated by protective/nonporous barriers (i.e. structural walls or plexiglass dividers).
  • The size of a party seated at a table cannot exceed six people.
  • Customers are encouraged to call ahead to make dining reservations before arriving to a restaurant.
  • All customers and workers are required to wear face coverings at all times, except when eating or if an individual is unable to wear a face covering due to a medical condition or disability.
  • All workers must wash hands frequently, and table servers must wash their hands or apply hand sanitizer between each table interaction.
  • Condiments and similar products (i.e. salt, pepper, ketchup, etc.) should not be pre-set on tables and should instead be provided upon request either in single-serving portions(i.e. individual packets) or in serving containers that are sanitized between each use.
  • Menus must be one of the following: 1) paper, single-use menus disposed of after each use, 2) displayed menu (i.e. digital, whiteboard, chalkboard, etc.), or 3) electronic menus viewed on customers’ phones/mobile devices.
  • Utensils and place settings must be either single-use or sanitized after each use; utensils should be rolled or packaged. Tables should not be pre-set to reduce opportunity for exposure.
  • Tables and chairs must be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly between each seating.

Here’s Your List Of Belmont Eateries Open For Business

Photo: The menu is ready for your order!

If there was ever a time to be a patron of Belmont’s restaurants, cafes, pizzerias, and takeout places, now is that time. With the COVID-19 pandemic halting sit-down eating, the town’s eateries can now only provide takeout service to their customers at a significant financial hit.

Thanks to Bonnie Friedman and Belmonthelps.org who created the Belmont Covid-19 Resource list, Belmont residents now have an updated list of restaurants and eateries that are still open and their hours.

“Please support them, if you can,” said Bonnie.

And an honorary Belmont restaurant

  • Conley’s Pub & Grille, https://conleyspub.com, 617-393-0237, open for take-out, noon to 9, 164 Belmont Street, Watertown