The Atmosphere: Just finding Showa is>"/>
The Watering Hole: Showa - My Izakaya, 701 N. 36th St., #200, 388-3913, FREMONT.
Photos by Matthew Piel
The Atmosphere: Just finding Showa is a bit of a trick. "Look up," instructs a sign on Fremont Avenue, directing your eyes to the neon "open" sign on the second story. The entrance to the restaurant is around the corner in what looks like an apartment building.
As you walk in, wooden sliding doors and bulbous paper lanterns affirm that yes, indeed, this is an Asian restaurant of some sort, despite the Ghost Busters art, vintage Wham! poster behind the bar, and the sounds of A-ha wailing "in a day or twoooooooo!"
Showa, which opened nearly two years ago, isn't overly concerned with tradition. The menu features primarily a selection of small Japanese plates (plan your visit for Tuesday or Wednesday when fresh-made gyoza aka pot stickers is available.) But you can also get a serving of macaroni bacon gratin and the house cocktail list includes something called a "Presbyterian"--not exactly a religious tradition one associates with the Far East.
The three guys working the open kitchen behind the bar are also an ethnic and cultural mix. And it is at that bar we meet Fabian Ramos.
The Bartender: The only two other patrons at Showa on this particular Tuesday night are into their third round of Risa Rubys--a grapefruit-themed drink--mixed up by Ramos. "It's aaawesome!" one of them gushes with a third-drink slur. It's hard to tell in the light and with his complexion, but Ramos, who has been tending bar at Showa for a little over a year-and-a-half, appears to blush a bit.
The Drink: Like many a barkeep, Ramos barely needs to look at the shelf to find his liquor of choice--Maker's Mark. Down comes the bourbon bottle and he briefly disappears before arriving with a golden, fizzy drink garnished with a lemon wedge and cocktail straws. "I'm into my Maker's and ginger beer," he explains.
Ramos, it turns out, is rather a ginger beer connoisseur. This instantiation is mixed with Cock 'n Bull. But he's also a fan of Rachel's, a local ginger brew that "has more of a bite to it." He rapidly lists off several more ginger beer varieties and their respective flavor profiles.
The Verdict: Maker's and ginger beer is fizzy, refreshing, and dangerously drinkable. With the lemon wedge, it's the perfect toast to a fading summer. Yet this drink isn't seasonally limited. Ramos mixes up a second round subbing nutmeg for lemon--a favorite of one of his co-workers. Just like that, the drink is redressed for the holidays.
As I try to pace myself through the concoction, Michael Jackson's voice comes in through the speakers: "The way you make me feel/You really turn me on." Thanks to Ramos, ginger beer, Eighties nostalgia, and a plate of gyoza, I feel pretty damn good.
In case you needed a close-up of the Wham! poster behind Ramos' head.