Acclaimed Chef Chikara Sono Returns To New York With Japanese BBF Tavern On The Lower East Side


After more than a decade at the helm of Kyo Ya, one of New York’s most respected kaiseki kitchens, chef Chikara Sono, which has been awarded a Michelin star and three enthusiastic stars. New York Times reviewer while there – took off to partner with longtime friend Makoto Suzuki (Brooklyn Ball Factory, Bozu, Samurai Mama). They will first open BBF in a 2,000 square foot space, located at 177 Ludlow Street in the former home of Black Tap on the Lower East Side, and in an adjacent space Kappo Sono will open at a later date.

BBF, which stands for Brooklyn Ball Factory, debuts on July 21 and is the more casual of the two restaurants. A bright and airy whitewashed space, this is an upscale 54-seat tavern that offers fusion Japanese-Western dishes. In Japan, izakayas – tavern-like restaurants whose menus are designed to be accompanied by alcohol – can range from gyoza joints with holes in the wall to elegant engagements featuring premium otoro and uni. BBF is somewhere in the middle. The relaxed vibe is matched with a menu that ranges from more affordable dishes starting at $ 7 to other seasonal dishes costing up to $ 40.

Clockwise from top left: ‘sushi bombs’, grilled duck breast, fuwatoro (a soft omelet with dashi sauce served over rice) and anago fish and chips

Expect plates like croquettes stuffed with Australian green-lipped abalone alongside a creamy truffle sauce and kale crisps; fried chicken with burdock chips; and grilled duck breast with umami salt and wasabi mashed potatoes. Sono’s signature farmhouse salad takes the form of a crudity dish and requires guests to dip the root vegetables in a side vinaigrette. It will also feature ‘sushi bombs’, rice shaped into mini spheres with a variety of fillings and fillings such as avocado cut in bloom and yuzu salsa, clearly inspired by its partner Suzuki’s Bozu restaurant in Williamsburg. , which showcases those round nigiri bites. Ultimately, Sono says his menu represents dishes he loves to eat.

Chef Chikara Sono

But it would be too simplistic to say that BBF just serves Japanese bar food. After all, Sono comes from a long-standing Kaiseki background – he credits Fumiaki Totsuka, owner of longtime Kaiseki luminary from Tokyo, Nadaman, his mentor, and this is where he learned the trade before. to move to New York for his ten-year tenure at Kyo Ya. And his kaiseki experience is showcased here at BBF; diners will note the attention to the seasons, as well as the different cooking methods (fried, grilled, steamed, raw, baked) that are required in kaiseki cuisine.

As for the more formal eight-seater Kappo Sono, hidden discreetly behind BBF and slated to open this fall, the chef will serve a seasonal omakase informed by his kaiseki roots. And as the name suggests, the meal will take place kappo style: a meal format in which guests sit at a counter and watch the chef prepare each dish. The Kappo dining room is centered on intimacy and closeness between the chef and the restaurant. And, generally, when a dish is ready, the chef passes it directly to the restaurant.

an orange cocktail

Nana Shimosegawa consulted on the cocktail menu

For now, the focus is on BBF. With its long, 14-seat bar and counter in the front, as well as tables in the back, it’s clear that the attention here is on the alcohol as much as the bites. The team hired Nana Shimosegawa, who was the first female bartender at East Village’s famous Japanese cocktail party, Angel’s Share, to check out a cocktail list that includes drams like the unstained shochu-tipped garden with lemongrass, shiso and tomato water; and a number of Japanese vodka flavored with pineapple, matcha and orange blossom. Meanwhile, the team enlisted New York’s premier sake sommelier, Chizuko Niikawa (who shaped the sake menus at some of the city’s top restaurants, including Daniel and Chef’s Table in Brooklyn Fare) to organize 40 rice drinks to start with.

To further emphasize the authentic Japanese nature of the restaurants, BBF and Kappo Sono are among the first restaurants in New York City to use a new water filtration system called Cleansui. Sono describes the water in Japan as “soft,” adding that this type of water enhances the umami in dashi and even green tea. Since dashi is the backbone of Japanese cuisine, he decided to install Cleansui to capture “the true flavors of dashi, similar to those made in Japan”.

All of this helps to bring New York closer to Japan.

Over the past decade or so, the city’s collection of extremely authentic Japanese restaurants has exploded. The number of high-end omakase sushi bars is at its peak, Japan’s number one yakitori chef has opened a branch here, while kaiseki itself as a category is growing. Old guards like Kajitsu and Hirohisa initially set the stage, while new additions Odo and Tsukimi bring new interpretations of Japan’s highest culinary art form.

For over a decade, Sono has quietly served some of New York’s most pristine and stylish kaiseki cuisines in a cozy underground space that felt entirely Japanese. He is now changing this shokunin (artisan) approach to BBF and Kappo Sono.

BBF will be open for dinner five evenings a week from Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant accepts reservations through Resy.

nigiri sushi bomb being prepared

The “sushi bombs” being made here are a nod to Makoto co-owner Suziki’s Bozu restaurant in Williamsburg.

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