Tim Maslow is finally ready to open a new restaurant.
The chef worked his way through the ranks of the Momofuku empire in New York; came home to reinvent his father’s Watertown sandwich shop, Strip-T’s; and went on to open Ribelle. But since closing the lauded Brookline spot in 2016, he has struggled to find his next step, working largely behind the scenes at places like Mida and Tiger Mama. “It was tough to figure out what I wanted to do for the next 10 years,” he says. “I needed to find something I was inspired by constantly.”
Now he has found that. He is teaming with restaurateur Brian Lesser to open a Japanese brasserie in the South End, tentatively named Whaling in Oklahoma.
“We were trying to figure out who we were in this business concept, and I saw this factoid, that there’s this dated, arbitrary law that says you can’t catch whales in Oklahoma,” Maslow says. “It’s funny and irreverent and makes no sense. It seemed a playful way to say what we might do.”
Maslow says he is not able to reveal the exact location at this time, but the South End’s Pilot Block Neighborhood Association recently announced via Twitter that chef Andy Husbands will close longtime restaurants Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel, to be replaced by a Japanese bistro after renovations. Husbands and Lesser are partners in the Smoke Shop barbecue restaurants. Another source, who asked not to be named, says Maslow will move into the Tremont 647 space, although Maslow declined to confirm. (Update: Husbands confirms Tremont 647 will close.)
The chef became fascinated with Japanese cuisine on a trip to the country a few years ago. “I don’t know how to describe the feelings I got when I was there,” he says. “The sensibility, the precision, the organization, the dedication, everything was just . . . It started to make sense to me.” Before Ribelle closed, he and his staff experimented with izakaya-themed evenings. At the new restaurant, he will continue these explorations of Japanese cooking. This could mean menu items such as onigiri, grilled whole fish, and “fun bar food,” as well as house-made furikake, pickles, and miso. He also wants to delve into Japanese specialties that haven’t received much exposure in this country. The food won’t exactly be traditional, he says, but it also won’t be flashy.
“I’ve grown up in the last few years. I’ve had a little forced maturity on me,” he says. The Globe reported in February 2016 that Maslow had been arrested at the Canadian border with more than 20 pounds of marijuana edibles; the charges were later dropped. He has also since become a father. “We’re going to be humble,” he says. “I’m super-excited to get a second chance at this.”
The restaurant is currently expected to open in June.Devra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.