by Ian McNulty
A new Japanese restaurant that’s been in the works for more than a year opened just before Mardi Gras on Oak Street as redevelopment continues along that historic Uptown commercial stretch.
Chiba is the first restaurant from Keith Dusko, a New Jersey native who has worked in the business for some 25 years, with much of that time logged at Japanese restaurants in New York City.
His new restaurant is named for a prefecture in Japan that is home to many traditional fishing villages, though Chiba’s menu is aiming for something a little nontraditional.
“I was often frustrated with what you usually find at Japanese restaurants, where there’s a thousand things on the menu but they’re all using them the same way,” he says. “We describe (Chiba’s approach) as traditional Japanese with that New Orleans twist.”
For instance, there is fried snapper in the Gulf Coast roll, along with crab, tobiko, jalapeno, lime and cilantro, while the description of the Crescent City roll reads like po-boy tribute: fried oysters, lettuce, tomato, Japanese pickles and wasabi aioli. On the hot side of the menu, the restaurant serves appetizers like pork belly steamed buns, short rib tempura and crawfish gyoza, and entrees including an Asian-style bouillabaisse with bok choy and a red miso broth and a soy-glazed steak with tasso and Thai basil.
Steven Ferdinand, formerly of Le Cirque in New York and the MGM Grand Las Vegas, handles the hot items, while James Cooke is in charge of the sushi. The restaurant has a full bar, with wines, sakes and specialty cocktails.
Chiba now serves dinner Monday through Saturday, and lunch hours will be added later. The restaurant is also keeping late-night hours, open until midnight Wednesday and Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
With the Maple Leaf Bar just a few doors down the block, those late-night hours are likely to get a work out.
“I live Uptown, and for late-night it’s usually Cooter Brown’s or nothing for me, so we’re hoping people use this as a place to go before or after the show,” Dusko says.
8312 Oak St., 826-9119