From its first location, almost all moves Yakuza House would have been an extension. The Japanese restaurant, best known for its hand rolls, opened in Metairie with a six-seat sushi bar and the kind of interior square footage typically associated with sport utility vehicles.
This week, Yakuza House opened the doors to a new location that is indeed exponentially larger but is also designed to retain the original orientation.
This new Yakuza home is at 2740 Severn Ave., in the building that once housed the Voodoo BBQ. Like that first shoebox-sized restaurant, this one is built around a hand bar that allows for direct interaction on the counter.
“It’s all about the experience,” said chef and founder Huy Pham. “We love interacting with each customer, explaining what we serve, what they get, why it’s different.”
Call for melee
This interaction is the essence of hand rolls, a sushi bar standard that is enjoying its time nationally and in New Orleans.
They’re made up of seafood, rice, and little else, all quickly wrapped in nori, the seafood wrapper that holds it all together and adds its broiled, briny essence. The chefs roll them by hand, without a sushi mat, and then (ideally) put them back on the counter for you to eat immediately. No chopsticks, no plate, just immediate gratification and then the next.
Pham quickly gained a following for the hand rolls and also his approach to “dressed nigiri”, or finished sushi with a galaxy of custom sauces and toppings.
It brings a wide array of fish not commonly seen on local sushi bar menus, with a changing list coming from Tokyo’s sprawling Toyosu Fish Market. There could be shima aji, a meaty and firm striped jack, or madai, a rich creamy sea bream, finished with a hint of yuzu koshu, a blend of citrus flavor and spicy heat. Smoked trout roe appears on a dollop of umami-rich uni or sea urchin; live scallops are given just a little fresh wasabi to contrast their natural tender sweetness.
There’s more Pham wants to do, but the first location was so small that he felt compelled to limit Yakuza House to a set repertoire.
“It was always someone’s first time there, so I wanted them to have what we were known for,” Pham explained. “But now that we’re bigger, we can serve newbies and also show our regulars something new and different when they return.”
Pham says that as the seasons progress, his promotions will grow and change.
Snack bar and omakase
The new Yakuza house has three distinct spaces – the main dining room, an izakaya room and an omakase room, reserved for private events and chef-led dinners, with its own small sushi counter.
The main room features a three-sided dining bar, essentially a wraparound sushi bar with an unobstructed view of the chefs at work. It has 16 seats, and the rest of this dining room has just four booths lined up on one wall. It is always a targeted operation.
The izakaya room is the first area you see entering, and it’s the bar and restaurant lounge (another big step up from the previous BYOB-only location). Befitting an izakaya (a Japanese-style tavern), the bar serves a snack menu, like karaage fried chicken, beef tataki, and gyoza dumplings made from Wagyu beef. Order the fried rice cakes and you get puffy, crispy sushi rice boards topped with chopped salmon or tuna, drizzled with chili garlic sauce.
Pham’s goal is to build a sizable selection of sake and whiskey here, and it has space for refrigerated sake displays, such as a wine cellar for sake.
Pham comes from a family of Vietnamese restaurateurs. They once had a pho shop called Nam Do on the West Bank and later opened fusion restaurant Hip Stix in the Warehouse District (both have long since closed). But Pham decided to build his own sushi career. He worked around town and had a warrant in New York. Back home, he spent years at Daiwa, the Metairie sushi bar known for its own ever-changing array of fish and chef-led style.
Yakuza House opened in 2021. As its popularity quickly exceeded its booking capacity, many people encouraged Pham to expand. They often argued the case for a location in their own neighborhood, especially around Uptown New Orleans.
Instead, the chef decided to double Metairie. One reason is the support he got from the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission when he was first trying to open and push through his plans during the pandemic.
“A lot of my clients are from Uptown, but Metairie has been good to us,” he said.
2740 Severn Avenue, Metairie, (504) 345-2031
Reservations via Resy.com
Tue-Sat 11am-2.30pm, 4.30pm-9.30pm (Fri, Sat. until 10pm)
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