Chikarashi Isso restaurant offers seasonal Japanese dishes in New York City

By on September 22, 2021 0

Chef Hide Kobayashi listens to the ideal temperature of the rice oil which heats up quickly before releasing a single shrimp into its depths. The sound is noticeable even if you are not trained to hear it; soothing like white ocean noise. Shortly after the crustacean has slipped under the smooth surface, Kobayashi pours drops of batter into the deep fryer. They dance in the mix like melted champagne. The technique gives the resulting tempura its etched texture, with microscopic peaks and valleys like a clear golden geode.

Kobayashi has tested and edited his recipes at Chikarashi Isso in the financial district in recent weeks. The chef moved to New York City from Tokyo a few years ago, or, a little before the opening of the first iteration of Chikarashi Isso, or, a little before the pandemic that would shut down restaurants across the city took hold. ‘installed.

“I’m new,” he said at the restaurant a week before it opened on September 27. Not to the profession, of course; he has accumulated years of experience in kappo and kaiseki style restaurants in Japan. IIt seems unlikely that Chikarashi Isso’s owners Ivy Tsang and Selwyn Chan accused him of creating his menu. otherwise. This is a new opportunity for a promising operation which, in hindsight, never stood a chance when it opened in December 2019.

At the time, Chikarashi Isso 1.0 received a warm reception from the media and a seemingly positive response from the public (reservations weren’t easy to get in its early days) that amounted to a buzz. But he only had a few months to build that momentum before it all came to a halt. With few consumers in this part of town, take out and delivery made no sense. Al fresco dining either on its narrow stretch of Rector Street. But in October, an opportunity presented itself on the second floor of the 50 Bowery Hotel, and Chikarashi 2.0 emerged.

“It was really a godsend for us,” Chan says.

There, another Chikarashi chef, Atsushi Kono, hosted a 10-seat yakitori tasting that gained popularity and ultimately lasted nine months instead of the planned two or three. It could easily have gone on longer if the team hadn’t prepared to revisit their original address this fall and open a new restaurant with Kono slated for early next year. And it was never intended as an extension of Chikarashi Isso.

“[I]It wasn’t really a continuation of what we’re doing here, ”Chan says. “It was really kind of a unique pop-up, as I would describe it, with Chef Kono. And now that we’re back here, we’re refocusing on that concept.

In a boomerang at its first location, Chikarashi Isso’s third form splits the difference between a new restaurant and a raise. Its 30-seat singing dining room is as charming as ever, and fun drinks like Suntory whiskey on tap highballs will always be available, in addition to wine and sake. But Kobayashi’s menu is brand new.

“Chef Hide is a master of tempura and sukiyaki, which we’ll highlight on the menu,” Tsang explains.

“Each tempura chef is a kind of artist, because it’s beautiful; very different,” Kobayashi said. “We can choose the perfect ingredientsHe says, explaining that preparation is key, and with a light touch and a delicate coating, it enhances, rather than obscures, these carefully curated and curated items. “Tempura is, for me, the best and easiest way to bring out the flavor,” he says.

The chef’s seasonal tempura selection, for example, can include shrimp, scallops and chrysanthemum, all recognizable even under a carefully calibrated coating. To be fair, given that chrysanthemum is less commonly plated in New York restaurants, it may not be as identifiable by name at first glance as shrimp. However, unrolled to the right with a few slices by Kobayashi’s knife, its delicate leaves are easily distinguished as flora. It looks like a preserved bodice.

His preparations also superimpose the nuance. The most lightly coated shrimp may contain a few grains of salt, while the almost imperceptibly thicker pieces of dough are suitable for dipping in fragrant shoyu.

Everything here, including the karaage chicken, dote beef stew, and hamkatsu adjacent to comfort food, with turkey ham, gouda, herbs, and tomato sauce, is meant to be shared. Wagyu sukiyaki, another chef’s specialty, is particularly interactive. Thin slices of beef are served with a pot of broth set over a flame. Twirled in the hot tub for about a minute, they come out slightly sweet with a satiny texture. This, and the tempura, punctuates why restaurants like Chikarashi Isso get the buzz to begin with: It’s a site-dependent experience.

“Fresh prepared, and even the way the chef has planned for you to eat it, it’s very specific” Tsang said. “Like the way you dip it, the tempura in certain sauces and the condiments that must accompany every tempura, you can’t have it in a domestic setting. You have to have that in a restaurant.

When we drink to “many happy returns”, we do not expect these returns to be made by force of necessity. Chikarashi Isso was, and is, and now he’s both back and brand new.

“I started from the beginning,” Kobayashi says.

Chikarashi Isso is located at 38 Rector Street and is open for lunch with a separate menu of chirashi bowls on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is open for dinner Monday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 12 p.m.

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