Anecdotes & Analysis
On my first visit, the chef asked me twice whether I wanted to try his foie gras. It was actual duck liver, not the monkfish liver that's sometimes called "Japanese foie gras. I succumbed the second time. What came out was not what I expected. Two sizeable pieces of duck liver were strapped to a bed of sushi rice with a sash of seaweed. At $12, not unreasonable. That sort of thing happened on every subsequent visit. Not just to me, but to others at the bar, too.
Why It's Essential
Chiba made a splash, if not a wave when it opened two doors down from Jacques-Imo's. Its press releases were so hip they were hard to understand. The USP was about lifting standards (and prices) to levels well beyond what we sushi lovers were used to. It's not all that, but it is something. The sushi chef, after welcoming you with an ample amuse-bouche, asks you things like whether you'd like real wasabi with your the sashimi. (The pale green sauce you mix with soy sauce is not often made from actual wasabi root.) They make distinctions like that throughout the menu, resulting in a variety of foodstuffs much wider than average.
Chiba is the name of a city outside Tokyo, and means "a thousand leaves." Keith Dusko, who worked with sushi restaurants in New York for some ten years, opened Chiba on Oak Street in early 2012. He took a liking to New Orleans on a visit, and thought he saw a niche for an upscale, creative sushi place.
The dim, wide-open space seems to have four dining communities at the same time. The people sitting along the windows or out on the sidewalk always seem to be on dates. More casual friends hang either at the liquor bar or the big group of tables along the walls. The sushi bar is all the way in the back. Almost wherever you are you will be tortured mildly by what I find to be the most uncomfortable chairs of any local restaurant. Don't lean back.
For Best Results
The sushi chef is more engaging than most, and ready with good advice, so the bar is even better a place than usual.
Chiba8312 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA