Murray Hill is usually not the place I would go to for good sushi, or anything culturally expansive for that matter. The good restaurants, however few there may be, get lost in a sea of Brooks Brothers suits and Tasti D-Lites. I hope that Chado doesn't get lost in the crowd, because it is definitely a standout amongst the lackluster California Rolls of the east side.
Situated on 36th street between Madison and 5th Avenues is Chado, a modern Japanese and sushi restaurant with a subtle exterior. The interior is quite the contrary, with bold, black leather chairs, a sleek white bar, and spotless floors (always a good sign). My good friend Nick and I were greeted by Omar, the owner, and Mike, other owner and head chef, who would be preparing most of our meal on this particular night. Omar told us that Mike has a unique talent for pairing sushi with distinct sauce accompaniments as opposed to serving just the traditional soy sauce, so I made sure that we got a few rounds of sushi. We started off with some appetizers though: chilled cauliflower and carrot miso soup that looks heavy and creamy, but is made with no cream – they made sure that we knew that. It was a nice combination of textures; velvety at first, with a little spice from the chili oil, and a crunch from some crumbled peanuts on top. Even though it was cold soup (I'm usually not a fan), I really liked it.
I had to request the beef short ribs with garlic-honey-tamari sauce and french fries at a Japanese restaurant, right? Who wouldn't?? I'd say the sauce was good, but the short ribs were a little inconsistent; some were nice and tender, others were a little fatty and chewy. The fries werenice and crispy – but you'd have to be pretty bad to screw up a french fry. My favorite appetizer was definitely the duck salad with a jalapeno plum vinaigrette. Tender morsels of duck lay atop a bed of mixed greens, red onion, carrots, tomato and cucumber, all tossed in this creamy and slightly spicy vinaigrette. Me = big fan.
To my surprise and enjoyment, the sushi was delicious. It was definitely the first time I ever ate sushi sans soy sauce, but fortunately, chef Mike knows what he is doing with his pairings. Some of my favorites (in no particular order): tuna with avocado sauce, red snapper with black olive sauce, salmon with red pepper/paprika sauce, eel with caramelized pineapple, tuna with caramelized onions, and the marinated scallop sushi. My only complaint about the sushi was the spicy tuna on top of a fried rice cake; it wasn't spicy at all. Spicy tuna is one of my favorite types of sushi, so this was mildly disappointing, but fortunately there were plenty of other yummy options. See evidence below.
Since it was Nick's birthday, I felt it was my job as best friend to embarrass him with some birthday singing. I asked the waiter if they had a dessert that they could put a candle in, and fortunately, they had a molten chocolate cake with ice cream. Mmmm. I definitely didn't need Nick's birthday as an excuse to order that. When is molten chocolate cake ever a mistake? That rhyme wasn't intentional, I swear.
I'd like to revisit Chado to see what pairings they will come up with next, but I seriously discourage the use of soy sauce here (unless you are getting traditional rolls), because in this case, the soy will just drown out the flavors and it may even clash. There is a bit of soy inside some of them already anyway, so the only thing I would suggest is a dash or two of wasabi paste. A little extra kick wouldn't hurt. Unless it was a karate kick. Lame joke…I know it.