The interior of Chikarashi. Photo by Selwyn Chan
Nestled between East Canal Jewelry Inc. and a multi-use building in Chinatown, is Chikarashi, a new Japanese-style poké sushi bowl restaurant at 227 Canal Street. Prior to 2016, the building maintained a number of identities. Before it was Chikarashi, the store sold knockoff designer bags. Now, Jonathan Chu, part of Chu Enterprises, is ready to bring new life to Chinatown. Chu was involved in other projects in the Chinatown neighborhood, including the transformation of 50 Bowery into a luxury hotel and the restoration of the historical Tuxedo Restaurant on Doyers Street.
“This is the time for Chinatown,” says Chu. “It’s been dwindling and fading for a long time.” In a community with an aging population, Chu says that he hope Chikarashi will “challenge the younger demographic to come back to Chinatown,” instead of venturing to other New York City neighborhoods during their lunch breaks.
The current exterior of Chikarashi
Most of the food offerings in Chinatown are traditional Chinese cuisine, and as Chu calls them, “staples” in the community. Chikarashi is the first of its kind in the area, with other poké restaurants located in Midtown, the Upper East Side and other parts of Manhattan. But Chu says that he is not aiming to be in competition with the neighborhood favorites. “The staples are still the staples,” says Chu, “we’re respectful of the culture.”
Historically, the lower Manhattan neighborhood has been rich with Chinese culture, boasting a population of nearly 100,000 people. The neighborhood is home to the largest population of Chinese people in the Western hemisphere, according to exploreChinatown.com.
Photo by Chikarashi
Both Chu his business partner, Selwyn Chan say their goal is to bring a higher standard of food, and life in general, to Chinatown. To achieve this, they brought in Michael Lim as their head chef. Lim’s previous experience includes working in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Ivy Tsang, a creative director at Code and Theory and formerly with Publicis, was brought in to work in-house on the marketing and public relations of Chikarashi.
“I bring the same techniques to this kitchen as I did to my other kitchens,” says Lim. the only difference is that the food is served in a bowl.” At Chikarashi, the menu was curated by the chef, and is advertised as being “from sea to table.” There are six poké bowls on the menu, including the Goya Shoyu Tuna, Sichuan Chili Salmon and a daily special.
Photo by Chikarashi
Chan adds that the restaurant receives fresh daily fish deliveries, and everything from the wasabi to the mayonnaise is made in-house. “I think that it’s appreciated,” says Chan. “There are no restaurants of this quality and demand in the neighborhood.”
Though Chikarashi is still in its soft opening, and there has been no advertising or marketing, save for word of mouth around the neighborhood, Chu says that business has been doing well. Mike Chau, who runs the well-known Instagram food account, “foodbabyny,” has patronized Chikarashi and posted pictures to his social media. “Some people have called us the best poké in New York City,” says Chu.