2006_04_food_chanto1.jpgTomorrow marks the opening of the 50th Chanto restaurant and here in New York, it's in a somewhat improbable spot- the former Moomba. We saw the cavernous space on Tuesday and, unlike the last time, there wasn't anyone oogling Victoria's Secret models, though the ground level did get its share of pretty people. The signature cocktails rely heavily on Shouchu (a Japanese liquor with less calories than most) and the one we tried, Mai, combined it with chamboard, Cointreau, passionfruit and pineapple juice for a delicious take on the French Martini. Downstairs and on the similarly red and white mezzanine, is casual and appetizer-orientated (we had some amazing, though not groundbreaking in their originality, sushi, most rolls $8) while the upstairs is lit in a different light, literally and figuratively- you can still see the West Village through the towering windows but everything is a little more elegant under chandeliers and facing black laquered walls.

2006_04_food_chanto2.jpgAt dinner, the fusion of the cuisine is more apparent from the start. We started with Tuna Carpaccio with a light and lemony mayonnaise and diced scallions ($12) and we had to remember that there were entrees coming because we tempted to just order another. For dinner the table tried both the Choki Choki Streak ($20) and Sauteed Black Cod ($20) (entrees range from $20- $42 for an Rib Eye Steak or Strip Sirloin) to good but mixed reviews. The cod was served in an amazing, creamy Sake Kasu sauce with green and white aspargus- it was paired and presently perfectly, it fell apart in our mouths but was pea-sized compared to our companions' entrees. The Choki Choki is so named for the sound that is made when servers -- handsome, adept waiters in this case -- cut the meat with kitchen scissors at the table, onto your plate. The short ribs themselves were drenched in barbeque sauce, soy, and mustard, and served atop a bed of lettuce. Again, the presentation was great but the ribs were more fatty then necassary. Chanto's wine list includes several choice not found elsewhere-like the only Japanese wine ever listed on the New York Wine Exchange, a lovely, full-bodied and warm red, the Chateau Mercian Kikogahara that our group agreed worked so well with the entrees. The desserts ($4-8), include a white sesame tiramisu, which didn't quite work in the cross-cultural interpretation, and green tea sorbet.

133 Seventh Avenue South, between Charles and West 10th St.
(212) 463-8686