Chado Brings Food to FashionChado is located at 4 East 36 Street and is open for dinner Sunday-Thursday from 5:00 to 11pm, and on Friday and Saturday from 5:00 to 11:30 pm. Chado is also open for lunch from 12pm – 3pm, Monday through Friday. For reservations, please call 212-532-2210.
Adventure into a new realm of fusion-inspired sushi and put Chado restaurant on your list of “things to do.” After making a name for himself at Gari, where he was awarded two stars by The New York Times, chef Mike Lim has teamed up with notable Manhattan restaurateur Omar Balouma (Barbes, Babouche) to reinvigorate Midtown East with their new fusion-inspired sushi concept, Chado. Named for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, Chado adds Southeast Asian, French, and Latin influences to Japanese food while maintaining the integrity and artistry of traditional Asian cuisine.
The décor is as elegant as the cuisine. Guests are greeted by a massive, stone-carved Buddha at the door, the stage is instantly set for something bold and transporting. Past the long, white bar, semi-circular black leather booths provide intimacy and privacy for each table in the restaurant’s front section, with minimalist panels of Japanese calligraphy denoting the customs of the tea ceremony dotting the wall. An Asian screen separates the back dining room, where a modern sculpted chandelier, sleek red pendant lamps and exposed brick wall play accent to the sushi bar—a true harmony of New York and Japanese aesthetics.
One of the only genuinely epicurian restaurants in the Fashion District, Chado has already become a haven for the industry’s big names, including Marylou Luther, the longtime editor of the International Fashion Sydicate, and the head designers behind large firms like Calvin Klein and Stan Herman. It’s no surprise: between Lim and Balouma’s backgrounds, the dining experience at Chado is pampering but humble, sophisticated but unpretentious. The same applies for the food: it’s intriguing and new, consistent in its delicacy and lightness.
Sushi may be the strong suit, but an array of the chef’s appetizers features gems that shouldn’t be skipped. Among them is the Japanese Style Red Snapper Ceviche, marinated in a combination of yuzu juice and white soy—a playful twist on the expected dash of citrus—all topped with a fresh, crisp blend of radish sprouts, baby endive, and chives. A duck salad with jalapeno plum vinaigrette may sound contrastingly heavy, but it will change anyone’s conception of the oft-weighty protein. Here, it is so gently cooked that the duck melts on the palate, its light gamey flavor left to shine for what it is.
Similarly, lamb tataki is complimented by sun-dried tomato oil and Korean miso—a gentle combination designed so that the quality Australian cut is able to play equal star to its unusual, quirky accompaniments. Even Asian staples get reinterpreted into haute versions, as with the crab- and shrimp-filled Seafood Shrimp Harumaki Rolls with woodear mushrooms, whose spicy kalaminsi (Phillipine lime) nectar dipping sauce holds flavors that are little explored in the city. The fancified eggrolls are but one indication of Lim’s playful, clever tendency to spin the classics with a bit of unexpected edge—adventurous enough for gourmands, but approachable enough for the average diner.
His inclination to push boundaries reappears in his treatment of sushi, wherein he adds sauces to augment the usual soy (which here, comes refined—it’s home-brewed). Each is brushed or dotted onto the fish with a refined aesthetic eye, such as the kalamata paste that’s speckled atop hamachi, adding the saltiness expected from soy, but without the sodium. A smooth guacamole-like puree is infused with wasabi and dolloped daintily over toro—a play on tuna avocado rolls—while salmon might benefit from a Peruvian-inspired spicy salsa or gingery mustard, depending on the chef’s whim. All his toppings, sauces, and recipes, are closely guarded secrets—so much so that Lim prepares them before any other kitchen staff arrives in order to protect their confidentiality. It’s not hard to see why—the approach is entirely unique, adding flavor explosions not generally associated with sushi, but without violating the integrity of an age-old culinary form.
The pairings are best tasted through the omakase menu, a custom-created experience in which diners interact with the chef for a meal tailored to their preferences. In this way, diners take a walk through the various expressions of Chado’s fusion sushi—some more traditional, some more playful—challenging their own expectations of Japanese cookery. Just keep the food coming till you tell them to stop. You are charged by the number of pieces you order.
Those who wish to order by the roll might choose the Chado, a roll filled with spicy shrimp tempura and topped with a kani kama and seaweed salad to balance the crunch and heft of the fried shrimp inside. Also notable: the Spicy Aquatic Roll, with spicy tuna and pickled Japanese cucumber inside and torched salmon and kabayaki sauce above. The special rolls are all created exclusively by the chef, with unique recipes not found anywhere else.
Returning back to the hot dishes from the kitchen, it would be difficult to pass on the chef’s memorable Chilean Sea Bass, which comes dressed in a deeply colored, sake-infused nori sauce and served with baby bok choy. The thick cut of fish is perfectly cooked: tender and buttery on the inside, with a definitive crunch from the gently seared skin. On the side, a dainty pile of fried tofu sticks that look like thick-cut French fries, the accompanying red pepper sauce playing their ketchup. They’re not only more virtuous for the nearby fashionistas—they’re also packed with enough flavor to convert the masses. Prime Rib Eye benefits from a roasted shallot and miso sauce; the hefty portion is counterbalanced by a creamy chickpea puree and exotic mushrooms. Together, it’s an exposition on earthy flavors.
Sweet endings include fixings for American tastes or more adventurous ones alike. The former might enjoy the chef’s favorite: a homemade molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, a classic showstopper in its own right. The latter will go for one of the chef’s more creative twists, such as his signature New York style green tea cheesecake, whose rich, dense texture is balanced by the light flavor of tea leaves. All are made in house by Lim himself.
The cocktails are massive and beautifully constructed and service is a dream. Indeed, every part of the Chado experience is, like a great Japanese painting, an exploration of balance and counterbalance, from the flavors on the plate to the restrained but inviting décor. It may be filling a much neglected niche Fashion District, but it’s safe to say that Chado would shine brightly anywhere in the city.
One of New York’s truly original Japanese restaurants!
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