Old Oakland's Umami Mart threw a shindig on Tuesday in honor of U-Mart, its expansion into a Japanese convenience store (or "conbini," the first in the Bay Area). With KronnerBurger grilling on the sidewalk and drinks from Sutton Cellars inside, the party drew a crowd of first-time gawkers and devoted fans of ceramic shochu cups and wooden coffee mills.
Co-owners Kayoko Akabori and Yoko Kumano started their food-and-drink blog six years ago, with contributors from all over the world. Umami Mart grew into a curated brick-and-mortar last year, becoming home to stylish, useful little gadgets -- such as a gold three-piece cobbler shaker ($52.50) and a beveled bitters bottle ($35) -- designed to sit on the fulcrum between sleek and cute.
Now you can check out imported snacks from Japan, like shrimp-flavored chips, Pocky, Tomato Pretz breadsticks and Matcha Kit-Kats. (Hopefully, they'll get wasabi Kit Kats, too; those are really, really good.) You'll also find Oakland's own Grease Box Kim Chee (in Ball jars, natch) and Peko Peko's bento boxes and onigiri.
Looking for Kewpie mayonnaise or some Japanese style mags? Now you have a home base-- and a reason to leave IKEA to that plastic hamlet known as Emeryville.
U-Mart, 815 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 575-9152.