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What killed Shimo?

Healdsburg restaurant closes

Chef Douglas Keane has confirmed that Shimo is, in fact, closed.

In an early morning phone call, Keane waxed philosophic about the shutter, saying that his passion for authentic Japanese cuisine may not have translated well in Healdsburg, and ultimately, the numbers just didn’t work out.

After opening as a high-end steakhouse — something that ultimately proved unsustainable for everyday customers — Keane tried switch up the concept by doing $7-$10 ramen bowls, bar bites and Sunday prime rib specials to bring in more crowds. Most recently Ken Tominaga of Hana Japanese was a weekly sushi-making guest.

But despite some last ditch efforts, Keane decided to throw in the towel mid-November — in part so he could place some of the remaining staff at his other restaurants and afford to give a small severance to those he couldn’t. “If we waited until January there wasn’t much I could have done for them,” he said. A broken refrigerator sealed the deal early this week.

Keane plans to hold onto the space for now, seeking a possible buyer or testing a new restaurant concept with broader popular appeal (we’re voting for a Diavola-style offshoot). Meanwhile, he’ll continue holding down the fort at Cyrus and HBG.

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78 thoughts on “What killed Shimo?

  1. Perhaps real people are just hungry for genuine, unpretentious, non-trendy food and reasonable prices, regardless of the ethnicity.

  2. Perhaps real people are just hungry for genuine, unpretentious, non-trendy food and reasonable prices, regardless of the ethnicity.

  3. Mr. Keane simply exhibited visions of grandeur. He wasn’t happy with the success of the “CENA LUNA’, which happen to be one of the best restaurants near the Square.
    Bring back the CENA LUNA!!!

  4. Mr. Keane simply exhibited visions of grandeur. He wasn’t happy with the success of the “CENA LUNA’, which happen to be one of the best restaurants near the Square.
    Bring back the CENA LUNA!!!

  5. I have a question for Keane and Bite Club, and I’m no economist so this is an honest question.

    We’ve been in a recession for years now and it’s been relatively stable. Further, all of the market analysts and economists cited by the mainstream media, locally and nationally, have predicted a long, slow and perhaps even delayed recovery just to reach levels far below the pre-recession peak. With such a grim yet predictable economy, how could the economy be to blame for the demise of a business that was opened during this recession? Wouldn’t the blame fall on the business owner and any investors for an inaccurate market analysis and/or unrealistic expectations for recovery? Capitalism and business ownership is all about risk and reward. Keane took a big risk and it didn’t pan out. I don’t see how this is anyone or anything’s fault but his own.

    1. Fair question. Frankly, I think the “economy” probably wasn’t the main factor here, but a player. here’s why…

      Even though the rest of us may be struggling, rich people are still rich. Very rich. Doug operates restaurants at both ends of the spectrum — Cyrus, which is one of the most expensive restaurants in Wine Country and HBG, which is a burger bar. Both are always packed. Cyrus isn’t hurting in this economy despite the prices. Healdsburg attracts wealthy visitors who are willing to spend money, so a high-end steakhouse wasn’t a crazy idea in the least, especially with Keane’s name attached to it.

      What probably didn’t work (and Doug told me as much) was the Japanese concept. Doug is very into authentic Japanese flavors and has a real regard for Japanese cuisine. It was a little confusing to the average person to have a steakhouse that wasn’t exactly a steakhouse and Japanese cuisine that didn’t involve sushi or rice. I respect Doug for the concept, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough of a clear market for it.

      In a better economy, yeah, he probably could have stuck it out and made it work for a while. In this economy, people aren’t willing to take many risks when they eat out.

      Over the summer, he tried to do more approachable food like noodles and sushi, which were great (and really affordable for the area), but I think peoples’ minds had already been sort of made up. I’ve talked to a number of folks who said they kept “meaning to go there”.

      Keane did take a big risk, and i don’t think he’s asking anyone to feel sorry for him. he knew the gamble, and he also got out while he could still try to place his staff and not lose his shirt. I respect that.

      1. re: but I think peoplesโ€™ minds had already been sort of made up.

        You are right about that, we went twice while it was “Modern $$$teak”, and my friends would not go again after that. One comment was “Modern=Expensive” . I’m thinking they probably should have changed the name when they moved to the Noodle Concept.

      2. “What probably didnโ€™t work (and Doug told me as much) was the Japanese concept”–Never ate there; have eaten at Japanese restaurants. Can you explain what
        “japanese concept” (without rice or sushi) is????? You order your tacos from Japanese-speaking wait staff? The spaghetti and meatballs come with chopsticks?

    2. Well said and explained logically to the best of your knowledge, nice to see an articulate point of view. Sorry for Shimo, but hopefully new life springs from its closing.

  6. Often, you eat rice and rice again and maybe less then one once of tuna, eel or what ever.
    A filler, ja, but most places goten to expensive.
    Miss Sakura at the Coddingtown Mall, great food and right on the portion for the price there charged.
    Hope there open up again some where else?

  7. I have a question for Keane and Bite Club, and I’m no economist so this is an honest question.

    We’ve been in a recession for years now and it’s been relatively stable. Further, all of the market analysts and economists cited by the mainstream media, locally and nationally, have predicted a long, slow and perhaps even delayed recovery just to reach levels far below the pre-recession peak. With such a grim yet predictable economy, how could the economy be to blame for the demise of a business that was opened during this recession? Wouldn’t the blame fall on the business owner and any investors for an inaccurate market analysis and/or unrealistic expectations for recovery? Capitalism and business ownership is all about risk and reward. Keane took a big risk and it didn’t pan out. I don’t see how this is anyone or anything’s fault but his own.

    1. Fair question. Frankly, I think the “economy” probably wasn’t the main factor here, but a player. here’s why…

      Even though the rest of us may be struggling, rich people are still rich. Very rich. Doug operates restaurants at both ends of the spectrum — Cyrus, which is one of the most expensive restaurants in Wine Country and HBG, which is a burger bar. Both are always packed. Cyrus isn’t hurting in this economy despite the prices. Healdsburg attracts wealthy visitors who are willing to spend money, so a high-end steakhouse wasn’t a crazy idea in the least, especially with Keane’s name attached to it.

      What probably didn’t work (and Doug told me as much) was the Japanese concept. Doug is very into authentic Japanese flavors and has a real regard for Japanese cuisine. It was a little confusing to the average person to have a steakhouse that wasn’t exactly a steakhouse and Japanese cuisine that didn’t involve sushi or rice. I respect Doug for the concept, but in the end, there just wasn’t enough of a clear market for it.

      In a better economy, yeah, he probably could have stuck it out and made it work for a while. In this economy, people aren’t willing to take many risks when they eat out.

      Over the summer, he tried to do more approachable food like noodles and sushi, which were great (and really affordable for the area), but I think peoples’ minds had already been sort of made up. I’ve talked to a number of folks who said they kept “meaning to go there”.

      Keane did take a big risk, and i don’t think he’s asking anyone to feel sorry for him. he knew the gamble, and he also got out while he could still try to place his staff and not lose his shirt. I respect that.

      1. re: but I think peoples’ minds had already been sort of made up.

        You are right about that, we went twice while it was “Modern $$$teak”, and my friends would not go again after that. One comment was “Modern=Expensive” . I’m thinking they probably should have changed the name when they moved to the Noodle Concept.

      2. “What probably didn’t work (and Doug told me as much) was the Japanese concept”–Never ate there; have eaten at Japanese restaurants. Can you explain what
        “japanese concept” (without rice or sushi) is????? You order your tacos from Japanese-speaking wait staff? The spaghetti and meatballs come with chopsticks?

    2. Well said and explained logically to the best of your knowledge, nice to see an articulate point of view. Sorry for Shimo, but hopefully new life springs from its closing.

  8. GIFT CERTIFICATE FOR SHIMO

    Just talked to Barbara from Cyrus and yes, Gift Cards from SHIMO can be used at CYRUS or HBG

    Herbert

  9. Often, you eat rice and rice again and maybe less then one once of tuna, eel or what ever.
    A filler, ja, but most places goten to expensive.
    Miss Sakura at the Coddingtown Mall, great food and right on the portion for the price there charged.
    Hope there open up again some where else?

  10. I live in L.A. but I visit Sonoma County now and then, so I’m better able to discern the gradual changes than people who live there. IMO Healdsburg has already passed the point of being spoiled by its own success. It’s as if a formerly wonderful, magical town suddenly grew large, greedy arms to reach deep into people’s pockets.

    Look, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and I know how cities work. There’s no way that the Healdsburg City Council is ever not going to approve another restaurant space that could bring in more tax dollars. But it’s a shame.

    As for Shimo: I lived in Japan and I love the Japanese people and culture, but this restaurant simply didn’t belong in Healdsburg, and it typified everything that is wrong about the money-centered direction that Healdsburg is headed.

    Will I still visit Healdsburg? Yes, it’s still a great place. Just not as good as it used to be.

    1. Yeah, it was way better back in the 90s when lots of storefronts were empty, there was little tourism, the food and wine choices were few and narrow, and the smoke from all of the hibachi cookers in the plaza filled the Sunday afternoon air (!?). @Emmett, what does “belong in Healdsburg” in your opinion?

      BTW, Shimo’s re-launch had a noodles and sushi menu that was amazing. And not expensive. Too bad that wasn’t where the restaurant started. The identity confusion seemed to be its undoing…not the food or the pricing.

  11. I live in L.A. but I visit Sonoma County now and then, so I’m better able to discern the gradual changes than people who live there. IMO Healdsburg has already passed the point of being spoiled by its own success. It’s as if a formerly wonderful, magical town suddenly grew large, greedy arms to reach deep into people’s pockets.

    Look, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and I know how cities work. There’s no way that the Healdsburg City Council is ever not going to approve another restaurant space that could bring in more tax dollars. But it’s a shame.

    As for Shimo: I lived in Japan and I love the Japanese people and culture, but this restaurant simply didn’t belong in Healdsburg, and it typified everything that is wrong about the money-centered direction that Healdsburg is headed.

    Will I still visit Healdsburg? Yes, it’s still a great place. Just not as good as it used to be.

    1. Yeah, it was way better back in the 90s when lots of storefronts were empty, there was little tourism, the food and wine choices were few and narrow, and the smoke from all of the hibachi cookers in the plaza filled the Sunday afternoon air (!?). @Emmett, what does “belong in Healdsburg” in your opinion?

      BTW, Shimo’s re-launch had a noodles and sushi menu that was amazing. And not expensive. Too bad that wasn’t where the restaurant started. The identity confusion seemed to be its undoing…not the food or the pricing.

  12. I’m not going to feel bad for Keane – he’ll bounce back. I ate there once after it opened. Great dining experience, but it was so damn expensive. His business plan flops and he then mixes it up with a noodle bar. Seriously? Talk about an identity crisis. I didn’t even know about Sushi Thursdays until a few days ago…

  13. I agree with Brian about the need for a steakhouse, but I’d prefer it was closer to Cattlemen’s than Stark’s. Good steak at a decent price. I also think biteclub is right about both $9 being worth it for good noodles, and it being cheap for Healdsburg. I am however, also interested in her thoughts about the actual quality of Shimo’s noodles. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I have to say we have plenty of mediocre steakhouses in the area, and i frankly don’t think we need any more. I’m not sure exactly what people see in overcooked feedlot steaks at chain restaurants. If i want to eat a meh quality steak, I’d rather go to Costco, get a steak, throw it on the grill and make my own baked potato. At least I know I’m being cheap and unsustainable rather than having to pay double the price to do the same thing.

      Frankly, I thought some of Shimo’s steaks were over-priced, but shit they were good. I had the $100 Kobe. it was crazy. I also loved the shortribs for like $22. I’d rather get an incredible, perfectly cooked, medium rare (or rare) piece of meat that’s been well-handled than some tough, crappy, well-done piece of meat that I pay $15 less for and end up thoroughly annoyed with. That, and have to cut 2-inches of fat and gristle off of. Blah!

      1. I hear ya, but I think Kobe beef is horribly overrated. Being local, I have the opportunity to eat some of the finest local beef available. It’s possible I’m terribly biased. ๐Ÿ™‚ I disagree that Healdsburg has an alternate steak house, mediocre or otherwise. I don’t think you can get away with the “Costco steak on the grill” adage either. It defeats the purpose of any of these conversations. Some of us are capable of throwing down Michelin Star food at home, but prefer to go out. We’re willing to excuse a lot to have crap handed to us, and liquor poured down our throats. You still haven’t said what you thought of the noodles. I imagine that given your position, there’s no need to kick a dead restaurant while it’s shuttered though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Agreed that we have amazing beef. I will admit here and now that I don’t love the flavor of grassfed beef, so that colors my world. But objectively, the meat is great. I’m talking American Kobe, which we have in the region.

          Steakhouse in Hburg, true. I was thinking more broadly. I’ve been to Cattleman’s and no offense, but it didn’t rock my world. I thought Frank and Ernie’s had a solid prime rib, though!

          Have you had Costco steak? If we’re just talking flavor, they’re really solid. I find most of the other stuff to be too lean or just flavorless. Whole Foods has some good stuff too, but it’s pricey. I’m not the world’s best home cook, but uh…yeah, i can crank out a mean steak.

          I loved the noodles. I hope that doug will find a way to make them happen again somewhere. But i don’t know if there was enough of an appreciative audience to make it worth his while. I’ve been so craving ramen…
          I hear Whole Foods is starting to do it at their sushi bars. Probably not great, but better than top ramen, eh?

  14. The place was way too expensive ev en for the tourist Celine who was the main target,locals tried it for the novelty,and without local support”..it bites the dust. other places seem to be doing OK….

  15. A “Diavola-style” restaurant is not possible. Diavola is a creation of one guy. There just aren’t a whole lot of cooks out there with Italian soul. There is only one with Dino’s Italian soul.

    1. Amen to that Franco! And besides, Diavola is just up the road. How about something with just a hint of differentiation — original and not appropriated?

      1. How about a steak house like the Broiler in Redwood Valley, the place is packed every Thursday to Sunday and has been for 30+ years. But then, they would have to drop down to the common class and have a juke box and good ol boys.

    2. Franco…you hit the nail on the head. Diavola is successful because of hardwork and yes, “soul”. Dino has great people working for him and doesnt have so many irons in the fire.

    3. Agreed. I was talking about something that is both approachable and artisanal in style. Frankly, there are too many Italian restaurants near/in Healdsburg. What kind of restaurant do you think Hburg needs? Interesting thought…

  16. I’m not going to feel bad for Keane – he’ll bounce back. I ate there once after it opened. Great dining experience, but it was so damn expensive. His business plan flops and he then mixes it up with a noodle bar. Seriously? Talk about an identity crisis. I didn’t even know about Sushi Thursdays until a few days ago…

  17. Only ate there once about 120 days ago and not impressed. Big money for very so-so food and tiny portions. Still, it’s never good when a business has to close.

  18. Sad. I had one of the BEST steaks in my life here. The rest of the food was excellent as well. It also was very EXPENSIVE.

    1. I’m okay with jabs at the $100 steak, but i think that’s a pretty ignorant comparison. I’ve been craving good japanese noodles, and when they are done correctly a steaming bowl is transformative. $9 for pretty much anything in Healdsburg is a good deal, btw.

  19. Sad to see Shimo go…Once the restaurant recognized the menu needed to be revamped we went quite a few times and the the food was consistently good. Prices were great, no corkage fee, good noodles and the sushi pop-up was a great idea. But I think the die was cast on Shimo as people thought it was another overpriced spot in Healdsburg. I for one hope we can get another quality steak house and sushi place in Healdsburg in the near future. Both are needed just maybe not under the same roof.

  20. I think Japanese restaurants are slowing down all over the country. As odd as it may seem to many people, Some patrons cannot help but wonder where all the food supplies come from. Japanese style restaurants would do well to clarify exactly where they are getting their supplies from.

  21. I agree with Brian about the need for a steakhouse, but I’d prefer it was closer to Cattlemen’s than Stark’s. Good steak at a decent price. I also think biteclub is right about both $9 being worth it for good noodles, and it being cheap for Healdsburg. I am however, also interested in her thoughts about the actual quality of Shimo’s noodles. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I have to say we have plenty of mediocre steakhouses in the area, and i frankly don’t think we need any more. I’m not sure exactly what people see in overcooked feedlot steaks at chain restaurants. If i want to eat a meh quality steak, I’d rather go to Costco, get a steak, throw it on the grill and make my own baked potato. At least I know I’m being cheap and unsustainable rather than having to pay double the price to do the same thing.

      Frankly, I thought some of Shimo’s steaks were over-priced, but shit they were good. I had the $100 Kobe. it was crazy. I also loved the shortribs for like $22. I’d rather get an incredible, perfectly cooked, medium rare (or rare) piece of meat that’s been well-handled than some tough, crappy, well-done piece of meat that I pay $15 less for and end up thoroughly annoyed with. That, and have to cut 2-inches of fat and gristle off of. Blah!

      1. I hear ya, but I think Kobe beef is horribly overrated. Being local, I have the opportunity to eat some of the finest local beef available. It’s possible I’m terribly biased. ๐Ÿ™‚ I disagree that Healdsburg has an alternate steak house, mediocre or otherwise. I don’t think you can get away with the “Costco steak on the grill” adage either. It defeats the purpose of any of these conversations. Some of us are capable of throwing down Michelin Star food at home, but prefer to go out. We’re willing to excuse a lot to have crap handed to us, and liquor poured down our throats. You still haven’t said what you thought of the noodles. I imagine that given your position, there’s no need to kick a dead restaurant while it’s shuttered though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Agreed that we have amazing beef. I will admit here and now that I don’t love the flavor of grassfed beef, so that colors my world. But objectively, the meat is great. I’m talking American Kobe, which we have in the region.

          Steakhouse in Hburg, true. I was thinking more broadly. I’ve been to Cattleman’s and no offense, but it didn’t rock my world. I thought Frank and Ernie’s had a solid prime rib, though!

          Have you had Costco steak? If we’re just talking flavor, they’re really solid. I find most of the other stuff to be too lean or just flavorless. Whole Foods has some good stuff too, but it’s pricey. I’m not the world’s best home cook, but uh…yeah, i can crank out a mean steak.

          I loved the noodles. I hope that doug will find a way to make them happen again somewhere. But i don’t know if there was enough of an appreciative audience to make it worth his while. I’ve been so craving ramen…
          I hear Whole Foods is starting to do it at their sushi bars. Probably not great, but better than top ramen, eh?

  22. The place was way too expensive ev en for the tourist Celine who was the main target,locals tried it for the novelty,and without local support”..it bites the dust. other places seem to be doing OK….

  23. A “Diavola-style” restaurant is not possible. Diavola is a creation of one guy. There just aren’t a whole lot of cooks out there with Italian soul. There is only one with Dino’s Italian soul.

    1. Amen to that Franco! And besides, Diavola is just up the road. How about something with just a hint of differentiation — original and not appropriated?

      1. How about a steak house like the Broiler in Redwood Valley, the place is packed every Thursday to Sunday and has been for 30+ years. But then, they would have to drop down to the common class and have a juke box and good ol boys.

    2. Franco…you hit the nail on the head. Diavola is successful because of hardwork and yes, “soul”. Dino has great people working for him and doesnt have so many irons in the fire.

    3. Agreed. I was talking about something that is both approachable and artisanal in style. Frankly, there are too many Italian restaurants near/in Healdsburg. What kind of restaurant do you think Hburg needs? Interesting thought…

  24. Only ate there once about 120 days ago and not impressed. Big money for very so-so food and tiny portions. Still, it’s never good when a business has to close.

    1. I’m okay with jabs at the $100 steak, but i think that’s a pretty ignorant comparison. I’ve been craving good japanese noodles, and when they are done correctly a steaming bowl is transformative. $9 for pretty much anything in Healdsburg is a good deal, btw.

  25. Sad to see Shimo go…Once the restaurant recognized the menu needed to be revamped we went quite a few times and the the food was consistently good. Prices were great, no corkage fee, good noodles and the sushi pop-up was a great idea. But I think the die was cast on Shimo as people thought it was another overpriced spot in Healdsburg. I for one hope we can get another quality steak house and sushi place in Healdsburg in the near future. Both are needed just maybe not under the same roof.

  26. I think Japanese restaurants are slowing down all over the country. As odd as it may seem to many people, Some patrons cannot help but wonder where all the food supplies come from. Japanese style restaurants would do well to clarify exactly where they are getting their supplies from.

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