Revered chef Ken Tominaga, owner of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County, California, PABU in San Francisco, and PABU Boston at Millennium Tower, has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on Japanese cuisine. Tominaga is known for his ever evolving approach to Japanese cooking – one that relies on its core principles of using only the highest quality, freshest fish and best local produce, and honors its ability to layer and express flavors so beautifully. In addition to his skill, Tominaga’s success can be attributed to his infinitely curious mind; he describes his career as never-ending, and his appetite for learning as insatiable.
While growing up in Tokyo, Tominaga’s parents fully immersed him in the city's vibrant dining scene. Holding apprentice positions as early as adolescence, he quickly fell in love with the culinary world. Throughout high school, he worked his way up in restaurants, first as a dishwasher, then as a prep cook, often catching just a few hours sleep before returning to class.
After graduation, Tominaga moved to California to join his family's business, an optics company in Santa Rosa. The local restaurants and the influence of French, Italian, and Chinese cuisine began to steer his culinary point of view while he also noticed a significant void in fantastic Japanese restaurants. When his family sold their business, he seized the opportunity to return to his first love, cooking, and headed to Tokyo to attend the Akasaka Cooking School. By day, he studied one on one, learning to cook everything from tempura to udon. By night, he frequented his favorite sushi restaurants, studying the work of the sushi masters he'd known since he was a boy. Coaxing them to reveal recipes and tips, Tominaga would then adapt their secrets to reflect his personal style, while still representing authentic Japanese tradition.
Tominaga opened Hana Japanese Restaurant in 1990, seeing no choice but to make it a success and hoping to change Japanese food culture in the States. Within its first few years, Hana developed a devoted, cult following among fellow chefs and the local restaurant industry. Media accolades soon followed, and the San Francisco Chronicle called it “one of the best restaurants in all of Sonoma County.” Tominaga saw the opening of Hana in Rohnert Park as a continuation of his learning process, and he works every day to refine his cuisine.
Tominaga befriended celebrated chef Michael Mina over 10 years ago when Mina visited Hana on the recommendation of one of his chefs. Mina fell in love with Tominaga’s inventive omakase menu, and it was not long before he and his family became regulars at Hana. The two chefs developed both a friendship and a mutual admiration for one another’s craft, and they began plans to collaborate on a Japanese concept.
In 2014, Tominaga and Mina introduced the Bay Area to PABU, their modern izakaya and sushi bar concept. PABU has since been named among the Top 100 Restaurants in the city by the San Francisco Chronicle, has garnered a three-star review, and was named by Zagat as one of the hottest Japanese restaurants in the country. In November 2016, Tominaga and Mina expanded on its wild success with PABU Boston at Millennium Tower. As their first venture in New England, the restaurant is poised to change Boston dining and set new standards for Japanese cuisine.
Whether on the East or West coast, guests of PABU can find Tominaga’s highly creative twists on traditional Japanese dining. With a belief that food tastes all the better in an enjoyable atmosphere, PABU’s setting is dynamic and warm, and Tominaga is a frequent fixture, interacting with and educating guests in the dining room and behind the sushi bar.