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Hakkasan, the 'Chinese Nobu,' Opens in Midtown

By Mary Johnson | April 3, 2012 7:46am
A dim sum platter at Hakkasan.
A dim sum platter at Hakkasan.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

MIDTOWN — The Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan makes its New York City debut Tuesday, bringing high-end Chinese cuisine to West 43rd Street with some tasty additions crafted specifically for the chain’s New York City location.

Deep-fried quail in Chinese fermented bean curd and pickled vegetables, sauteed duck breast with king oyster mushrooms and jin-chuan sauce and Asam seafood in a clay pot are among the new items that will join Hakkasan staples at the eatery between Eighth and Ninth avenues.

Those classics include roasted silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey, stir-fried black pepper rib-eye beef with merlot and steamed dim sum.

Hakkasan's entrance into the New York City market has been several years in the making and marks a significant achievement for the company, which already has outposts in Abu Dhabi, Miami, London, India and Dubai, said CEO Niall Howard.

“We’re a global brand,” Howard said of the chain, which the company has called the Chinese equivalent to the  Japanese restaurant, Nobu.

“And I think [New York] is undoubtedly one of the culinary capitals of the world.”

The company originally scouted potential locations uptown, as well as in TriBeCa and the Meatpacking District. But it needed a lot of space, with a design that required 20-foot ceilings and a large, rectangular space. A central location was also critical.

"You look around one block, and it’s like, wow, this is an amazing business area," said Howard, noting that its new home is also surrounded by new, high-end condos, as well as dozens of theaters and hotels.

“You start to think, ‘You know what? This is actually a real good area.'"

“It kind of reminded us a little bit of our first Hakkasan,” Howard added, noting that the restaurant's first branch was situated in a less-than-desirable location in London.

Hakkasan’s façade is subtle and subdued, with a black latticework design obscuring the windows lining its entrance.

Inside, the design aims for a “Chinois-chic style,” Howard said. The goal was not to bathe the restaurant in red Chinese silks, but to dot the space with elegant details.

Similarly, the menu offers a more sophisticated take on Chinese dishes, Howard noted.

“People’s perception of Chinese cuisine is cheap, fast food,” he added. “This is enhancing the spectrum of Chinese food and culture.”

Chef Ho Chee Boon, who has spent 24 years working in renowned Asian restaurants, will spearhead the restaurant’s New York City location.

In rattling off Boon’s lengthy resume, Howard said, “So, basically, you’ve got our best chef.”

Howard said New York’s culinary community has warmly welcomed the new addition, and the restaurant recently hosted a dinner to thank the city’s top chefs for their advice and assistance in helping Hakkasan join New York City’s restaurant scene.

The guest list included Daniel Boulud, David Burke and “Top Chef” alum Hung Huynh.

“They had a great time. This was place was buzzing,” Howard said.

“People just kind of enter a new world when they enter the world of Hakkasan,” Howard added. “It’s just magical.”