Create Restaurants Holdings operates over 800 restaurants in Japan and around Asia, and it’s now breaking into the U.S. market with Naoki, a kaiseki-style restaurant that opens in Chelsea in July. The debut signifies the company’s intent to succeed in America, with an eye to Europe, too.
Operator Naoki Takahashi has been with the company for 10 years, and he says he scouted locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami, but started with the New York City location its stronger ties to Europe. Takahashi learned about opening in America from his former boss Nobu Matsuhisa (yes, that Nobu) when he was the general manager at the Los Angeles location years ago.
Though most of Create’s restaurants in Japan are in fact Italian, the company thought Americans would be more likely to embrace a Japanese restaurant from a Japanese company. Chef Jiro Iida (Salt and Charcoal, Aburiya Kinnosuke) was brought on board to create an $80 kaiseki-style (seasonal Japanese tasting menu), four-course menu, in full below.
“We thought about a lot of ideas, including steakhouses, but this is our first outpost so it’s . . . a testing ground,” Takahashi says. “So instead of focusing on one certain cuisine, we decided to be a little generic and see how customers react and start from there. But this is what Japanese people eat in Japan.”
A meal starts with eight bites, dishes like prawn and egg-yolk sushi and fried lotus root with whitefish paste, then continues with a fish course and meat course, ending with sushi and soup.
Naoki will be open for bento box lunch and tea on weekends, and Takahashi hopes people come just for tea and dessert, too. As it turns out, dessert is the most extensive section of the menu.
The space is hidden on 17th Street just off of Eighth Avenue, and Japanese design firm RIC Design turned what used to be an enclosed patio into a zen garden, though diners can’t go out there — it’s just for show.
Naoki opens early July and will be open for dinner daily from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.