Photo: Cody Rasmussen
As part of an ongoing series, Cititour is highlighting various establishments and how they navigated through one of the longest lockdowns in New York City history. This week we are speaking with Chef Hiroki Odo, the force behind Hall and o.d.o in Flatiron where kaiseki cuisine and cocktails meld Japanese tradition with modern culinary techniques.
This is Chef Odo's story:
Q: What was the toughest moment for you during the pandemic?
A: The most difficult time was at the beginning of the statewide lockdown, it was very sudden and there was no time for us to formulate a comprehensive contingency plan when the shut-down happened, and to craft a plan to help the employees as well.
Q: How have things changed?
A: Both o.d.o and HALL did not offer delivery service prior to the pandemic. HALL had a relatively casual, carry-out friendly menu. As o.d.o is s a high-end Kaiseki restaurant, it was an impossible task to continue service and offer delivery at the same time. With interruption of the supply chain, the o.d.o team had to reimagine the menu, presentation, and packaging.
Q: As a cocktail bar, interaction with customers is key, how has it been adjusting to takeout and pickup service?
A: We just started offering cocktails for take-out recently. Although our beverage director Jordan David Smith (formally of Michelin-starred Atomix and Le Coucou) worked on themes and seasonality of the cocktail recipe, the experience people have at home just cannot compare with having a cocktail customized individually in an intimate environment. Instead of in-person communication with the bartenders, the messages can only be conveyed virtually through social media. The majority of alcohol consumption is enjoyed by people under social settings and circumstances, we are just beginning to adapt to providing the craft and experience in absence of social interaction which is a curious new norm.
Q: When you do reopen fully, what will your business model look like?
A: Carryout and delivery will become a steady part of the business, and we will continue to develop new menu items that are suitable. As for fine dining sector, we must focus more on elevating each patron's experience through creativity of ingredients and superb service. We hope to develop our private and small group dining to adapt to the circumstances, this means customized menus, augmented beverage selections, and more detail-oriented communication.
Q: If you open at 50 percent of capacity, is that sustainable?
A: It's quite impossible especially in NYC, but we will have to adjust and find other channels of income in order to support our ideals and passion.
Q: o.d.o, your kaiseki experience, relies heavily on quality seasonal ingredients. Has it been difficult sourcing ingredients during the pandemic? Has your menu changed as a result of it?
A: On Mother's Day this May, Chef Odo designed a traditional Japanese Jubako series which was welcomed by customers. Most of the ingredients were imported from Japan due to the challenges in local supply chains. The temporary limitation is frustrating, but the odo team will keep our core value at heart and are hopeful for when things resume.
Q: One year from now, what is your vision of the future?
A: Quite a number of bar and restaurants are permanently closed due to the pandemic, but we imagine there will be more establishments with creative ideas opening up. NYC never has a lack of competition, and that fact will not change. We are working on an expansion project with space adjacent to our current location. It will be an interesting concept that integrates art, dining, fashion, and much more.
Hall and o.d.o are located at 17 W 20th St in Flatiron. View menus at Hall and o.d.o