Back at Baku

New owners and a fresh menu means it’s time to revisit the SouthPark staple.

Last fall, Baku, a high-end Japanese restaurant located in SouthPark, came under new ownership. When it first opened in 2013, Baku was a refreshing metropolitan addition not seen before in the city. It was the first robata-style restaurant in Charlotte, and its original team was a group of well-traveled jet setters. Now, Baku rests in the hands of another well-traveled pair with established restaurant roots in the Queen City. Husband-and-wife team Birdie Yang and Janine Lu, owners of Yama Asian Fusion in the Morrison Shopping Center and Yama Izakaya in Plaza Midwood, have begun to etch their signature into the two-story restaurant on Sharon Road.

Yang first made a name for himself in 2007 when he opened Yama Asian Fusion, known best for its fresh, high-quality sushi and approachable neighborhood feel. At Baku, he brings the same service minded-approach, along with valuable connections to importers who deliver high-end ingredients twice weekly from the far reaches of the globe, including  Japan and Spain. The hotspot serves up everything from live scallop to wild bluefin tuna (when in season), and mind-melting Miyazaki beef that ranks as some of the best beef in the world. In addition, Yang brings his sake excellence to the restaurant—he holds a Level II sake certification, which equates to a sake menu full of rare bottles and the largest collection in the Southeast.

Baku boasts a stunning interior, an artful arrangement of contemporary art, and modern furnishings in a large, open dining room that also houses the sushi bar, where guests can indulge in an elegant omakase tasting. In addition to nigiri and sashimi, sushi rolls play a prominent role in the reimagination of the restaurant, an obvious strength drawn from Yang’s established concepts. Baku continues to utilize its robata grill, with an array of yakitori-style starters like the unctuous pork belly with miso glaze, and grilled tiger prawns with yuzu sauce and blistered tomatoes. Yang plans to offer special dinners centered on the latest fresh catch. He recently hosted a special multi-course dinner featuring king crab.

Upstairs, the Baku lounge offers a place to sip on a handcrafted cocktail while waiting for a table, or a home base for a sake tasting and lively night out. Yang has always loved the space at Baku, and is thrilled to elevate the menu with first-class ingredients to match the already sophisticated space. 

Photos by Michael C. Hernandez