sandos at izumi photo by adam rothbarth

First Look: Izumi

After a long gestation period, Japanese sando concept Izumi is finally heading out on the road. Operating mainly out of a converted 1995 Subaru Sambar, this new project is the brainchild of Kurt Bellon (Chao Baan, Global Foods Group). Its first service was yesterday, Thursday, Oct. 8, outside of Chao Baan.

Izumi is inspired by the konbinis of Japan - grab-and-go convenience store concepts aimed at providing satisfying, healthy meals to busy people. As the way we eat changes in light of the pandemic, Bellon says, he felt it was time to introduce this new concept to St. Louis. “One thing that I think has changed is that people’s schedules and behaviors have changed,” Bellon explained. “We don’t have a rush hour anymore. There isn’t a lunch crowd as much.” 

He said that there’s a stigma around gas stations and premade food in the U.S. that isn’t prevalent in Japan, where concepts like this are very common and are known to produce excellent food. “I’m not here to reinvent the wheel or to show off my skills by putting a spin on this thing,” he said. “I want to showcase memories I have from Japan and respectfully replicate it here in America.” Another reason he’s doing this now is that he hasn’t been able to visit Japan this year due to the pandemic, and simply craved a taste of home. “Why don’t I bring a little bit of that here?” he thought. 

A few core sandwiches are the centerpiece of Izumi. The tamago sando includes egg salad and kewpie mayo. “The elegance is in its simplicity and minimalism,” Bellon said. The tonkatsu takes a panko-breaded pork cutlet with a simple tonkatsu sauce that Bellon compared to a Worcestershire-tinged barbecue sauce. The strawberry sando comes with whipped cream. A larger menu of rotating sandwiches includes eggplant katsu, a BLT and more.

Izumi also offers a number of beverages and sides. “[Drinks] that you would find in a Japanese vending machine,” Bellon said, adding that he’d been scouting local Asian grocery stores to check out what’s been popular. He said Boss coffee will be available, as will Calpico, a milk-based, yogurt-style drink, and Pocari Sweat, a sports drink. Izumi will offer sides like shrimp chips and Koala’s March cookies. 

Going forward, Izumi plans to do pop-ups and potentially even delivery elsewhere in town. “It’s such a 2020 move,” Bellon said. But the next month will be a love-fest with some of the Grove’s most popular spots: Handlebar (Oct. 15), Rockwell Beer Co. (Oct. 22) and Just John (Oct. 29). “It’s just a great neighborhood, and I want to highlight the establishments that really make the Grove great and push it forward,” Bellon said. 

Check out the slideshow below for more info about Izumi.