This restaurant went from being a quiet nook New York City's West Village to an always-packed hotspot, overnight. Here's how its owner dealt with the good and the ugly of being an instant hit.
Takashi Inoue, chef and co-owner of Takashi.
When an accolade comes—whether it's a glowing New York Times review, a shout-out from Anthony Bourdain, or a twinkly new Michelin star—a restaurant needs to be prepared. Takashi went from being a quiet Japanese eatery in New York City's West Village to an always-packed hotspot after Anthony Bourdain tweeted it was the "most exciting cooking" he's seen in a long time, and featured it on his show The Layover. But for every Takashi, there are a few more like New York City's Heartbreak, which closed one week after receiving a Michelin star last year. Takashi chef Takashi Inoue tells us how he dealt with the positive and negative aspects of being an instant hit.
I visited Takashi a few months after it opened in 2010 and it was relatively quiet. I tried to come again in February 2012 and there was a two-and-a-half hour wait. When did you notice the shift? Sam Sifton's review in the New York Times came two months after we opened, and it put us on the map of new and interesting places to eat in the city. It all kind of exploded from there on.
Anthony Bourdain loves Takashi and is very vocal about it. Did you recognize him when he first came in? Did you treat him any differently from other customers? Yes his assistant called to ask if she could make a reservation for him, and I'm a huge fan so I said, "yes of course." I went up to him to say "hello," but apart from that, he ordered like any regular customer who'd walked through our doors.
How has his endorsement affected your business? Have other endorsements been as influential? His endorsement was astronomical. I didn't quite realize what a rabid following he has worldwide. We've had people as far as Australia say they came to Takashi because they saw us on his show. His stamp of coolness—selecting us for his one layover dinner in the entire city—was quite an honor.
How have you handled the increase in business? We expanded our hours slightly to accommodate the added demand for tables. We're a cozy establishment with no real room to expand seating, so that was the best we could do.
Are there any plans for expansion? Not at the moment, but having introduced Japanese-style yakiniku horumon (grilled innards) to New York, I might want to try a whole new concept next time.
CLARISSA CRUZ is the Fashion Features Editor of O, The Oprah Magazine. She is the former Style Editor of People magazine and has written for Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Food & Wine, and Budget Travel. @clarissanyc1