Less Skin, More Space

Bonzai Bistro, the Pioneer Square sushi bar that gained brief notoriety last year for its weekly "naked sushi" event (a club night with a sushi buffet served on seminude women), will unveil its new 1,000-square-foot expansion at a "grand reopening" on Saturday, Sept. 18, says general manager Alexander Jackson. Jackson left a post at "sister restaurant" Wasabi Bistro in Belltown to commandeer Bonzai's addition of a tricked-out nightclub that includes "a complete, 100 percent private VIP room, with plasma screens, with Xbox, with a private bar attached to it." Part of the challenge Bonzai faces is inherent in its goal, which Jackson describes as "trying to bring a little bit of Belltown and Queen Anne down here to this end," the more touristy, less clubby part of Pioneer Square. Jef Fike, owner of the short-lived French bistro Bandol, had the same intentions, and his venture went under in less than a year. Bonzai, on the other hand, has already surpassed the crucial one-year mark, and business seems unaffected by the near elimination of "naked sushi." ("After doing it for one year," Jackson says, "the numbers just dwindled . . . the novelty wore off." Now Bonzai offers it by request for private parties.) There's even an element of poetic justice built into the restaurant's renovation plans: As though in response to the female customers (and daily-paper columnists) who condemned "naked sushi," calling it blatant objectification, the new Bonzai sports an extra-large ladies' room, the sum of two previous bathrooms. Guerre de Grocerie Move over, Madison Market, and roll out the red carpet for Trader Joe's—or should they? Years after Madison Market opened on 16th Avenue in Capitol Hill, a more powerful, widespread chain has followed suit, settling on 17th Avenue for its location. Trader Joe's opened its doors to the public on Aug. 30, presenting an elaborate new four-story structure with two levels of parking—and studio apartments above, à la Uwajimaya Village. This is TJ's 11th store in the Seattle area, and the grand-opening celebration on Sept. 3 will include a ribbon cutting, giveaways, a balloon artist, and samples of tasty, natural eats. Trader Joe's prides itself on its extensive array of imported foods and beverages, including, fresh artisan breads, specialty cheeses, juices, and beer and wine, among others. Buyers for the store travel to Europe, South America, and Asia to find unique products, at a value average shoppers can afford. Will Cap Hill granola connoisseurs ditch the local food co-op for the new guy? Time will tell. Squeeze play Have you ever wanted to feel the goop of annihilated grapes squishing between your pretty pink toes? We can't help you. But Austin Robaire Vintnersare seeking gracious individuals to help them crush grapes. You'll have to fantasize the foot-on-bunch sensation, because Austin Robaire believes in traditional winemaking techniques, but not that traditional. You'll get just as much exercise feeding grapes into the winery's crusher-destemmer, so high heels, miniskirts, and jewelry aren't in order—just comfortable, casual work duds. And just in case, it's strongly recommended that you bring rain gear. The Woodinville winery provides sandwiches, snacks, and drinks to help you keep your energy up. The crush shifts, which will take place on Saturdays in September and October, starting Saturday, Sept. 11, and ending Saturday, Oct. 16, run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.austinrobaire.com. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com.

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