This Hawaiian-Japanese brunch sensation is finally making its Bay Area comeback

Morning Wood, a beloved Hawaiian-Japanese brunch restaurant that drew long lines for enormous plates of gravy-dripping loco moco and chewy matcha mochi pancakes, is coming back to the Peninsula.

The San Bruno restaurant closed last spring to make space for the owners’ new Hawaiian snack shop and general store, Diamond Head, which has also been a hit. Now, owners Chad and Monica Kaneshiro plan to reopen Morning Wood at 514 Peninsula Ave. in San Mateo later this month. The new space is twice as big, with both indoor and outdoor seating, and they plan to use reservations to cut down on the wait times that had become part of the experience of dining at the former Morning Wood.

Many Morning Wood fan favorites will return, including mochi pancakes with whipped adzuki butter, omurice with kimchi fried rice and a Japanese breakfast set with a sous vide egg, rice and pickles. Loco moco will be available as an off-menu “secret” item: If a customer asks for it, Chad Kaneshiro will make it.

The Kaneshiros, who opened Morning Wood in 2017 after working in Bay Area fine-dining restaurants, have developed a reputation for their clever integration of Hawaiian, Japanese and Korean influences, with Spam, kimchi and katsuoboshi all sharing space on the menu.

At the new Morning Wood, “the food will be reflective of what we did in the past but we’re hoping to take it up a notch and get a little more creative and inventive,” Chad Kaneshiro said.

Morning Wood’s popular loco moco will be available off menu at the brunch restaurant’s new location.

Provided by Chad Kaneshiro

During the Morning Wood hiatus, the Kaneshiros have been busy dreaming up new breakfast dishes, like katsu-fried French toast with miso caramel and bacon jam. They bake fresh Hokkaido-style milk bread, soak it in custard, batter it in panko and deep fry it. In another dish, the milk bread will get topped with uni and avocado for a play on a crab roll.

Also look for a twist on waffles, made here in the style of imagawayaki, a sweet, filled Japanese street snack. Street vendors cook the batter in special griddles and usually cut off the edges of the treat so it’s perfectly round. The Kaneshiros will keep the crispy edges intact for added texture.

The menu at the new Morning Wood won’t be as expansive as before, however, so the team can focus on quality. Some previous Morning Wood staples like mochiko chicken will only be available at Diamond Head. (As employees help reopen Morning Wood, Diamond Head may have to close or shift to a limited grab-and-go menu for a few weeks.)

A large mural decorates the outdoor patio at Morning Wood in San Mateo.

Provided by Chad Kaneshiro

The new space seats about 50 inside and 20 on a covered outdoor patio decorated with a large mural of a Japanese lion and huge cresting ocean wave, painted by artists Taki Horitaka and Drew Flores of State of Grace Tattoo in San Jose. The owners plan to use Tock or Resy for reservations, with limited walk-ins available on a case-by-case basis. For drinks, there will be beer and wine.

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Parklet at Cotogna, 490 Pacific Avenue in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, July 30, 2020. in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Due to indoor dining being prohibited due to coronavirus pandemic, many San Francisco restaurants have put up "shared spaces platforms" where tables and chairs have been placed on sidewalks and parking spaces.

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The Kaneshiros signed the San Mateo lease just before the pandemic hit, and have been struggling to pay rent on two spaces with only one business open. The new restaurant was delayed by supply chain issues and other pandemic disruptions. The owners are hopeful that even in a new location, the demand for Morning Wood’s brunch will return.

Morning Wood. Opening August 2022. 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.

Elena Kadvany (she/her) is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @ekadvany