A renowned Japanese chef who trained for years at El Bulli, the shuttered but seminal Spanish restaurant specializing in molecular gastronomy, is opening his first U.S. restaurant in NYC. Chikara Yamada, the chef-owner of Yamada Chikara in Tokyo, is planting a restaurant with the same name in Midtown East next month.
Located at 249 East 49th St., near Second Avenue, Yamada Chikara will offer an omakase menu focusing on kushiage, a lesser known cousin of kushiyaki. Like kushiyaki, kushiage are skewers of vegetables, meat, or seafood. But unlike kushiyaki, kushiage are breaded with panko and deep fried.
There aren’t a lot of restaurants serving kushiage in NYC right now; Village Yokocho in East Village does, selling them for $3 or less a skewer.
But Yamada Chikara will be a more upscale situation, serving kushiage as part of a $180 per person omakase menu that will feature several courses of appetizers followed by a series of 10 to 12 kushiage, a chirashi-sushi box with miso soup, and Japanese desserts served with matcha tea. The small operation will just seat 20 people at the bar.
Several high-end restaurant imports from Japan have opened in NYC over the past couple years, including Naoki and Noda recently. But most of these restaurants tend to be sushi omakases or kaisekis, making Yamada’s kushiage-centric menu a newer addition to the growing landscape of Japanese fare in NYC.
According to a representative for the restaurant, Yamada’s Tokyo location of Yamada Chikara is smaller and does not serve kushiage, instead focusing on a Japanese-style tasting menu that implements molecular gastronomy.
While he got his start cooking in Japan, Yamada received culinary training in Spain under chef Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, the now-closed three-star Michelin restaurant in Catalonia famous for molecular gastronomy. The “flow and feel” of the tasting menus at NYC’s Yamada Chikara will be “very Japanese,” the rep says, but Yamada will bring in some of his Spanish influence for the food, as with the Spanish omelet that’s on the menu, in full below.
Yamada Chikara is set to open on May 2nd.