Brace yourselves. Restaurantarama is about to shamelessly gush about Bryan Emperor, executive chef of upscale, modern Japanese restaurant Ten. There’s a time and a place to complain about Charlottesville’s restaurant and retail scene getting all swankier-than-thou and expensive. We’re sure to do it again on this very page soon, but not today. Today is for thanking the universe for whatever confluence of events (Dave Matthews meeting Coran Capshaw; Coran Capshaw meeting gazillions of dollars) led to Emperor making his way to Charlottesville and creating one of the best modern Japanese menus this side of Ginza.
Before Emperor met our local restaurant mogul Mr. Capshaw and launched Ten in 2006, he’d opened a similar restaurant in Beijing, done stints at Manhattan’s elite sushi spots Nobu and Megu, and been the first Culinary Institute of America graduate to get an apprenticeship in Japan. That’s a gigantic feat in itself, folks. The sushi chef world has notoriously high barriers to entry, and it’s nearly impossible for Westerners to crack the secret code. But Emperor has an edge—aside from his mad knife and cooking skills, he speaks Japanese “proficiently,” thanks to studying abroad as an undergraduate and then working on the Japan desk at Lehman Brothers. While at Lehman, Emperor says he spent a lot of time entertaining Japanese clients at underground sushi places in Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York, and after seven years in banking, he became so smitten with the sushi that he quit his job and entered culinary school. The rest, quite frankly, is history in the making.
Sushi royalty: Executive chef of Ten, Bryan Emperor, was the first Culinary Institute of America graduate to get an apprenticeship in Japan.
First on the notable achievements list was the invitation to prepare a modern Japanese sake dinner at the James Beard House in New York last fall, and then there was his first runner-up win at the National Sushi Society’s Grand Sushi and Sake Tasting in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. The guy’s a rising foodie rock star. Sure, there are plenty of fairly cheap places to get a good California roll and some soba around here, but what Emperor is doing is a world-class menu with the most authentic and freshest Japanese ingredients available (directly from the only Japanese company to supply the stuff to the states, in most cases—yes, we know, all of you locavores are choking on your grass-fed Virginia beef at the moment), and one of the most exclusive sake lists in the country.
Emperor is in the process of opening a new Japanese eatery in Manhattan (with a few partners, not including Capshaw). But not to fear. Emperor says that while he’ll spend three or four days a week in New York once the new place opens this summer, he’s committed to Ten and Charlottesville. “I’ve really grown as a chef here,” he says. “It’s been the perfect place to see if my type of cuisine would be accepted in the United States.” We’re O.K. with Emperor leaving town once in a while. The more you set something free, the more it comes back, right?
Movers and shakers
Milano is moving! Mark Cave, who along with his wife, Victoria, owns the Main Street Market espresso and gelato shop as well as the Italian homewares store next door, Verity-Blue, tells us that Milano will reopen in a new location “TBD” by July 1, and that Verity-Blue is relocating to 100 W. South St. (next to South Street Brewery) on June 1.
By the time you read this, Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse will have closed its doors for good. Owner Hans Gerstl tells us, “I did what I set out to do, which was bring the restaurant back from where it was under my parents in the ’70s. We’re going out on top.” Gerstl also tells us that a Korean restaurant will take over the Fontaine Avenue location in August.
And finally, Fossett’s is hosting an Italian wine dinner under the direction of Executive Chef Craig Hartman this Thursday (call 979-3440 for reservations). We’ll bring more tidings of Fossett’s numerous food happenings at a later date.
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