Tri-level Sushi Clubstaurant ‘Juku’ Takes on Chinatown
Le Baron is now officially succeeded by Juku, a multilevel Japanese small-plates establishment that debuted earlier this week. Its ascension was mired in local controversy, owed in large part to the transition (and corporate changes) after Le Baron closed in June 2015.
Juku is a three-level clubstaurant, with “distinct dining areas.” Per Eater, a 12-seat omakase counter, a 36-seat izakaya-style dining room, and a forthcoming 56-seat basement lounge. The omakase at the upstairs, reservation-only joint is nowhere near affordable: $80 for 12 pieces of sushi and $120 for 15 pieces and a hand roll.
Kazuo Yoshida, former sushi chef at Williamsburg’s 1 or 8, is the on-premise chef.
Dozens of Chinatown neighbors fought tooth-and-nail to stonewall the concept from happening, fearing a bait-and-switch. A block association was also formed in opposition. Of particular concern was, and still is, the involvement of Max Levai, whom Eater name-checked as a co-owner and curator for Juku’s art displays. (Levai is not listed as a principal on the liquor license; Ken Cohen is the majority stakeholder.) He was previously involved Happy Ending which was known as the worst bar in the whole 5th Precinct. Ultimately, however, the fight was futile. Community Board 3 begrudgingly approved the controversial OP license application back in July, and the State Liquor Authority followed shortly thereafter.