Niagara Gazette

December 30, 2013

Serene Gardens cafe to move to Elmwood Village

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The Japanese have a special noodle dish they eat to celebrate the new year and bring good luck. Satomi Smith is planning to make herself a great big bowl to ring in 2014.

Satomi, who with her husband, Josh Smith, owns Serene Gardens, a cafe and garden center on Grand Island, has closed her restaurant and is in the process of moving the Asian bistro to the Elmwood Village.

The new location, at 739 Elmwood, will be called “Sato,” which is her nickname and which also means “village” in Japanese.  

“This winter has been challenging,” said Satomi, who had been serving a menu of mostly Japanese foods for lunch and dinner at the garden center cafe, patronized by a small but loyal contingent of customers.

The new location, opening in a former vegetarian restaurant, will be a little more upscale, she said. There will be a chef in the kitchen, and a wine and sake bar to attract an afterwork and late-night crowd.

“At lunchtime we will focus on the ramen noodle dishes which are my specialty,” she said. 

Ramen noodles are becoming increasingly popular as a fresh, affordable dish in places like New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, she said, and include a choice of meats and vegetables cooked in broth.

This New Year’s Eve the Japan-born mother of two said she plans to prepare the traditional new years dish for her family called Toshikoshi Soba, or “Year Passing Noodle.”

The recipe, she said, is very simple to make, using broth, soba (buckwheat) noodles, chopped green onion and seaweed.

Sometimes the Japanese scatter crumbs of fried tempura on top of the soup, she said. People also can add fishcakes or other items like mountain yams, but the traditional way is to serve the dish very simple.

“It depends on each household. Everyone has a different topping and a different way of making broth. Basically, it’s a hot soup with soba noodles.”

The Japanese eat the meal as the bells ring 108 times to welcome the new year, a Buddhist tradition symbolizing Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins. 

“Afterwards, people go out to temple to pray for the new year,” Satomi said.

With the closing of the Grand Island Boulevard restaurant, the adjacent garden center has also been closed for the winter, but is expected to reopen in spring to house the landscape business and garden supply store, Satomi said.