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Chelsea Japanese Tavern to Return After Closure

By Rosa Goldensohn | February 23, 2015 2:12pm
 Juban owner Ashwin Balani will reopen the space March 15.
Juban owner Ashwin Balani will reopen the space March 15.
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DNAinfo/Rosa Goldensohn

CHELSEA — After months of closure, a 10th Avenue Japanese tavern will rise again as Juban, according to its owner.

Ashwin Balani, a former manager at sake bar Izakaya Ten at 207 10th Ave., took over the space after it closed in October. He first planned to open an Indian pub, but he fell in love with local Japanese taverns, or izakayas, on a trip to Asia and decided to reopen Juban as a casual house of Japanese spirits.

“What I understood in Japan is an izakaya can be any kind of restaurant — very casual, very warm and inviting, not pretentious,” he said.

“It’s really about the people.”

Juban, set to open March 15, will offer about 30 sakes and 15 shochus, a drink distilled from vegetables like carrots, radishes or sweet potatoes.

“We even designed the bar to really highlight traditional Japanese spirits which pay tribute to Japanese culture,” Balani said.

Prices will range from around $10 for a house sake to $150 for a junmai daiginjo, which Balani called the “grand cru” of sake.

The bar will offer Japanese comfort foods like chicken meatballs as well as a raw bar. Balani plans to play J-pop along with old Japanese folk music.

Customers can also buy a bottle of shochu and leave it on the shelf at the bar for months, which he said is traditional in Japan.

Balani, a Queens native, studied hotel management at NYU, he said. He said he felt a special connection to the former Izakaya Ten space, and called his “little slice of heaven.”

“I did a past-life regression and I was Japanese in one of my lives,” Balani, who has a South Asian background, said. “I was a geisha…I realized that was what the connection was coming from.”