Daikaya Group Japanese-Italian Restaurant Tonari Reopens in Chinatown

Japanese-Italian restaurant Tonari by the Daikaya Group reopens. Pictured: pasta with XO sauce, Spam, shellfish ragu, and crispy crumbs. Photography by Veronika Sabir-Idrissi

Daikaya Group had just opened one of their most creative concepts to date in February of 2020. Tonari, a Japanese-Italian restaurant neighboring sister spots Daikaya and Bantam King, operated for a few weeks short before the pandemic forced it to shut down. Chef Katsuya Fukushima initially tried serving his “wafu” (Japanese-style) pizzas and pastas to-go, but uni noodles and pizzas designed with a tempura-like crunch didn’t exactly travel well. 

“No one knew our restaurant. We didn’t want the first experience to be from a box,” says co-owner Daisuke Utagawa. He says they’ve been trying to reopen for several months, but staffing—both front and back of house–has been a huge issue. So they landed on a new format: a five-course, ticketed tasting menu for $65 (inclusive of tax, tip, and food) offered on select nights. The first is this coming Saturday, December 18.

Chef Nico Cezar prepares a dish of sunchokes. 

“When you have less variance, it’s more manageable” says Utagawa. “At the same time, when we were open before, we had a lot of interesting dishes and there was never time to introduce them. This dovetails nicely with the operational needs and what we want the experience to be.” 

Chef de cuisine Nico Cezar, an alum of Masseria and (now-closed) Bibiana, fuses his Italian background with Japanese training, having led the kitchen at Daikaya ramen and izakaya next door. The tasting menu will continue to build on the wafu pasta experience—a unique style that developed in Japan in the 1950s. 

Tonari imports noodles from Sapporo—made in the same factory as the group’s revered ramen noodles—and matches them with preparations like an umami-rich XO sauce Spam, shellfish ragu, and crunchy breadcrumbs; or bolognese spiked with njuda and Japanese curry.

Koji risotto with parmesan and Asian pear.

Diners might also get a taste of Tonari’s pizzas—pillowy, crunchy-sided pies with brick cheese and toppings like pepperoni and shoyu-pickled jalapeños. Small plates might include bites like burrata with figs, chicory, and a ginger vinaigrette.  The team is working on beverage pairings that include cocktails, wine, sake, and Japanese beers. 

Burrata with figs, pearl onion agrodolce, bitter greens, and ginger vinaigrette.

A limited number of tickets—just order 70—will soon be available via Tock on select preview days through the holidays. Regular dinner service on Fridays and Saturdays will start after January 7. The hope is for a la carte and walk-in service to start in the new year. For now, Utagawa says he’s just grateful to have pizza and pasta fresh out of the kitchen again. 

“That in itself is a great thing for me. We have always said that we’ll only serve what we’ll eat.”

Tonari. 707 6th St., NW.

Pepperoni pizza with soy-marinated jalapenos (from the opening). Photograph by Evy Mages

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Source link

YouTuber Xiaomanyc explains why he spent $5K in tips at NYC Chinatown restaurants

Arieh Smith, better known as the YouTuber Xiaomanyc, has gone viral for handing out five $1000 tips to show his appreciation for beleaguered Chinatown restaurants in New York City suffering poor business during the pandemic.

“They’re so close,” Mr Smith told the New York Post. “I can taste this recovery coming back, but it would be such a shame if now these restaurants were forced to close or lay off employees.”

The gesture certainly got attention. The clip has nearly 2 million views since being published on Thursday.

The vlogger, whose channel focuses on Chinese language and culture, first became interested in China during an immersion program in Beijing in college, and says in the video he wanted to help out these struggling neighbourhood institutions, which often operated on ever slimmer margins than their counterparts in the notoriously tough restaurant industry.

“Not only do they provide great food to the people in the neighbourhood, but they also support a lot of employees and they’re all family run, and they’re just really amazing and great people,” Mr Smith says at the opening of the video. “I’m just helping them out in whatever small way I can.”

The online learning company Skillshare sponsored the video.

In the clip, many of the restaurateurs are overwhelmed by the tips, delivered in traditional red envelopes for Chinese New Year, and share how they’ve been struggling during the pandemic.

“I hope we get this pandemic over with soon,” an employee at Manhattan’s Spicy Village tells Mr Smith. “We can really only survive if we get back to indoor dining, otherwise we can’t cover our expenses. We’re just hanging in there honestly.”

Chinatowns around the country have been struggling with a related set of crises. The pandemic has tanked businesses like restaurants, common in Chinatowns, that depend on indoor traffic. What’s more, community leaders say racism and xenophobia has made business even worse, as some customers follow Donald Trump’s lead and brand the coronavirus the “China virus.”

Things have gotten so out of hand that Asian communities say they’re suffering increasing hate crimes and violence during the pandemic. Data on the issue is lacking, but New York and San Francisco both experienced upticks in hate crimes against Asian-Americans https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/02/25/asian-hate-crime-attack-patrol/?arc404=true.

Source link