Restauranter Derek Feldman has expanded his downtown sushi offerings. Now open on Eldridge Street under the same roof as Bar at Uchū, which opened earlier this summer, Uchū is a 10-seat omakase concept located in the front of the space. Sushi chef Eiji Ichimura, who left his namesake TriBeCa restaurant in June, will be serving the 18 to 22 tasting course menu, which will change daily and utilize herbs grown on the restaurant’s rooftop garden.
“I originally was going to open another sushi bar. I looked at multiple locations in the East Village and came across the space on Eldridge Street — which happened to have a full kitchen,” says owner Derek Feldman, who also owns micro-restaurant Sushi on Jones nearby. “I wanted to do something that had never been done before in New York, and create somewhere that I would like to eat personally, which is how I ended up developing Bar at Uchū and Uchū, featuring masters in their field.” Bar at Uchū, located in the back of the restaurant, features a seven-seat kaiseki counter along with a beverage list of over 90 Japanese whiskies. “When you add the beverage program, I would almost consider us three concepts under one roof at this point,” Feldman adds.
Here, Feldman discusses his latest small-scale restaurant.
WWD: How did you get connected with Eiji Ichimura? How would you characterize his influence on the project?
Derek Feldman: I was interviewing chefs from all over the world — California to Australia — and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have Ichimura working in my restaurant. Being a member of the small New York sushi community, I of course knew of Ichimura, and I was talking with a friend in the business who offered to introduce me. I was honored just to meet him, and thrilled when he agreed to join the team.
Before Ichimura we were a relatively young team working on Uchū. Ichimura has elevated the restaurant with a deep respect for his craft and incredible talent. He brings both a high level of seriousness and an extremely positive attitude to the restaurant. Everyone on staff has the utmost respect for him and will quiet down, stopping any joking around when he walks in in the morning. On the other hand, he’s always smiling and has a strong desire to teach everyone — he frequently jokes about teaching [Bar at Uchū chef] Sam [Clonts] to be a sushi chef. He completes the puzzle and it is such an honor to be working with him. Piece for piece, he’s the best in NYC.
WWD: What do you find interesting about creating smaller-scale, intimate restaurants? How does Uchū fit into the Lower East Side dining and nightlife landscape?
D.F.: I always wanted to create somewhere I would enjoy dining personally, and I also think smaller-scale, intimate restaurants are more of where the industry is going overall.
Uchū (which in Japanese means universe) is definitely a destination restaurant. While the Lower East Side is cool and changing, there is not currently much else with regards to fine dining in the immediate neighborhood. I thought about other high-end restaurants I have enjoyed and found that the diners in those restaurants are not necessarily from the neighborhood — I’m a big believer that “if you build it, they will come.”
WWD: Who is your target diner? Is it more about destination dining or do you hope to have neighborhood appeal?
D.F.: Definitely a destination restaurant, though I think the location brings a cool attitude and atmosphere in that you walk down a very unassuming street and when you walk in the restaurant you are transported to a different world, you could be in Midtown or Kyoto. Uchū could really be put anywhere, the important part of the experience is what happens inside. People come [from] all over — we’ve had customers fly in from California who say Uchū was their first stop.