Chikarashi Dives into a Second Space

Set as the next culinary trend, the partners continue to expand on its Japanese-Hawaiian-inspired cuisine

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Building on the success of their first counter-serve restaurant in Chinatown, the founders of Chikarashi develop their hold on a modern interpretation of poke (pronounced poh-keh), a traditional Polynesian dish, with a second location in NoMad. They called on Sweeten to execute the design for the new space, influenced by Japanese minimalism with all-wood paneling and counter seating. The brand is garnering raves (Eater praised their “chef-driven poke,”) and is also working with Sweeten on a third location—their flagship—in the Financial District.

PROJECT: Chikarashi opens a restaurant location in Manhattan’s NoMad

LOCATION: 1158 Broadway, New York, New York (at 27th Street)

RENOVATION TEAM: Sweeten architect firm and Sweeten general contractor

INTERVIEW WITH: Founders Ivy Tsang, Selwyn Chan, and Chef Michael Jong Lim

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Sweeten: Tell us a little bit about Chikarashi and how the brand began.

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Chef Michael: The brand began with an idea from Ivy and Selwyn wanting to bring a Polynesian restaurant to Chinatown. They had some ideas considering the food culture and popularity that were going on in the market when I was brought into the project. I thought about the ingredients that are common and used my Japanese training to add to chirashi (a big bowl of rice mixed with fish and vegetables) and to an overall poke concept.

Sweeten: What led to the opening of your brick-and-mortar store?

Selwyn: For our initial location, we were looking to do a nice concept in the Chinatown neighborhood that was not Chinese food. We had always been enamored with Japanese cuisine and saw the bubbling trend of the poke coming up. We liked the concept, but didn’t like any of the execution that was going around, so we partnered with Chef Mike to create our own take on it. The brick-and-mortar space was obviously something that we needed. We had come across a small space that was available and knew this concept wouldn’t require a full, traditional kitchen build, but could be done quickly and efficiently.

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Sweeten: How does your new restaurant space represent your brand?

Ivy: We serve Japanese chirashi and poke-inspired bowls, so in terms of the design, we would naturally lean towards Japanese minimalism. We took design cues from smaller shops in Japan and brought them into our space here. In both the Canal Street and this new location, we brought in a lot of earth tones with the walls paneled in maple wood. You get a similar sense if you were to walk into a ramen shop or a sushi restaurant in Japan, or Kyoto. We decided to not have a large space, but that something roughly 700 square feet was a nice size to work with. It’s a little bit more cozy and mainly for people to come in to take their bowls to go or to sit down. We have eight seats.

Sweeten: How did you, as a client, work with Sweeten and how do you think Sweeten can help business owners like yourself?

Selwyn: Sweeten has been really wonderful because it’s almost a one-stop shop, if you will. They offer a lot of guidance and the vetting of their partners is pretty extensive. We felt really comfortable when it came time to select a general contractor to work on the project itself, that the company would fulfill the needs of the build but also would fit well from a chemistry standpoint. I think Sweeten handles that matching process wonderfully.

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Sweeten: Did you have any last questions going into the project that you felt that Sweeten was able to help you with?

Selwyn: Yeah, absolutely. Sweeten was always there to kind of help navigate at every step of the process. Any questions were always answered in a quick fashion and they really offered their years of expertise to make the entire process a smooth renovation.

Head over to Chikarashi for a taste of what everyone’s talking about in Manhattan’s trendy neighborhood of NoMad.

Thinking of opening your own eatery? Check out our guide on the cost breakdown to open a restaurant.

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