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Last night at the Coronado’s Bistro d’Asia

Does Coronado maybe want to move on?

Erik Medina’s last sushi, the Dirty Vegas Maki.
Erik Medina’s last sushi, the Dirty Vegas Maki.

It’s the evening of September 8 at Coronado’s Bistro d’Asia; everybody’s happy, in a gallows good-humored sort of way. Like passengers appreciating the band playing on the Titanic. And as the evening sky turns cerulean, everybody’s here — everyone except Alaa Elsadek, the Egyptian-American ex-international soccer player who opened this place up, 20 years ago. Tonight, it’s closing, for good. “Everybody wanted to come by for one last time,” says Bob, the manager. “And, well, all the staff were crying. Alaa was so emotional, he couldn’t [stay] here.”

At Orange and B, the iconic Bistro d’Asia building.

So why close? This place somehow weathered covid and the lockdowns. They always had customers. “He decided to close because the [owners] wouldn’t renew the lease,” says Bob. “We’ve been on month-to-month since May. And they wouldn’t give us an extension of the lease, which we asked for. They want someone to come in and gut it. They want something like a high-end restaurant, like a Henry” — the sleek pub half a block away. “I don’t know how long this will stay vacant, but I bet it will be a while. I mean, with the way the world is right now, with the economy, with covid: who is going to come and put $2 million into a place like this, open up, and then with the expenses, make a living? The [property owners] have a vision, and we’re not it.” 

Maybe there’s a general movement towards street cafe, brasserie design? Does Coronado maybe want to move on? “We have our little niche, we have a good following. People love the food, the place. It’s like Cheers. You come in, we have our banter. How many times have you told me you’ve been kicked out of better places than this? But closings like ours are making Coronado lose its character. The small mom and pop places? They’re getting squeezed out.”

At the sushi bar, Eric Medina is making his last sushi roll. It’s a magnificent Dirty Vegas Maki. “I’ll be okay,” he says. “I’ve already set up a sushi catering company, ‘Fish Scale.’”  Beloved Brandy, who’s been the barkeep everybody comes for, along with Bob, is less happy. She seems on the verge of tears. She doesn’t know quite what she’ll do next. She drops a glass, something she never does. I’m so discombobulated I forget to even tip her. Brandy, I owe you!

Col. Chris: it’s about the fellowship.

And up at the bar, Chris, a serving Marine officer, is just as emotional: “I’m sorry Alaa isn’t here tonight,” he says. “But it was too much for him. I understand that. Because he made this place about the fellowship. I’ll even say the food wasn’t anything special. It was good, but what I loved was being here with these people. I’m a Marine, my wife is Navy, so we have a topsy-turvy life. I would come at least once a week, and usually get takeout. And Bob would say, ‘Are you cooking tonight?’ And I’d say, ‘Yes sir, I am. I’ve got hungry kids, my wife’s out to sea.’”

A server comes up to Bob. She has a couple trailing her. “These people are wanting to have a drink…”

Bob takes a moment to look around his workplace for the last 10 years. “No, we’re closed.”

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Erik Medina’s last sushi, the Dirty Vegas Maki.
Erik Medina’s last sushi, the Dirty Vegas Maki.

It’s the evening of September 8 at Coronado’s Bistro d’Asia; everybody’s happy, in a gallows good-humored sort of way. Like passengers appreciating the band playing on the Titanic. And as the evening sky turns cerulean, everybody’s here — everyone except Alaa Elsadek, the Egyptian-American ex-international soccer player who opened this place up, 20 years ago. Tonight, it’s closing, for good. “Everybody wanted to come by for one last time,” says Bob, the manager. “And, well, all the staff were crying. Alaa was so emotional, he couldn’t [stay] here.”

At Orange and B, the iconic Bistro d’Asia building.

So why close? This place somehow weathered covid and the lockdowns. They always had customers. “He decided to close because the [owners] wouldn’t renew the lease,” says Bob. “We’ve been on month-to-month since May. And they wouldn’t give us an extension of the lease, which we asked for. They want someone to come in and gut it. They want something like a high-end restaurant, like a Henry” — the sleek pub half a block away. “I don’t know how long this will stay vacant, but I bet it will be a while. I mean, with the way the world is right now, with the economy, with covid: who is going to come and put $2 million into a place like this, open up, and then with the expenses, make a living? The [property owners] have a vision, and we’re not it.” 

Maybe there’s a general movement towards street cafe, brasserie design? Does Coronado maybe want to move on? “We have our little niche, we have a good following. People love the food, the place. It’s like Cheers. You come in, we have our banter. How many times have you told me you’ve been kicked out of better places than this? But closings like ours are making Coronado lose its character. The small mom and pop places? They’re getting squeezed out.”

At the sushi bar, Eric Medina is making his last sushi roll. It’s a magnificent Dirty Vegas Maki. “I’ll be okay,” he says. “I’ve already set up a sushi catering company, ‘Fish Scale.’”  Beloved Brandy, who’s been the barkeep everybody comes for, along with Bob, is less happy. She seems on the verge of tears. She doesn’t know quite what she’ll do next. She drops a glass, something she never does. I’m so discombobulated I forget to even tip her. Brandy, I owe you!

Col. Chris: it’s about the fellowship.

And up at the bar, Chris, a serving Marine officer, is just as emotional: “I’m sorry Alaa isn’t here tonight,” he says. “But it was too much for him. I understand that. Because he made this place about the fellowship. I’ll even say the food wasn’t anything special. It was good, but what I loved was being here with these people. I’m a Marine, my wife is Navy, so we have a topsy-turvy life. I would come at least once a week, and usually get takeout. And Bob would say, ‘Are you cooking tonight?’ And I’d say, ‘Yes sir, I am. I’ve got hungry kids, my wife’s out to sea.’”

A server comes up to Bob. She has a couple trailing her. “These people are wanting to have a drink…”

Bob takes a moment to look around his workplace for the last 10 years. “No, we’re closed.”

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