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Eat Like an Insider: Ben Dodaro on 20 years of Haru

We asked the executive chef of the Haru restaurant chain about his favorite NYC eats.

In 20 years on the New York City restaurant scene, Haru has learned a thing or two about how Americans want their Japanese cuisine — and it’s in an opulent setting with the option of ordering a filet mignon when they just don’t feel like sushi.

“We have believed since the beginning in providing traditional and high-quality food in an innovative way with high-quality service, whether it’s dine-in, take-out or delivery, on a consistent basis,” says executive chef Ben Dodaro.

The modern Japanese restaurant chainlet, which began on the Upper West Side in 1996, will open its sixth location at 176 Eighth Ave. in Chelsea this Thursday, Aug. 18. Classics like duck spring rolls and bluefin crab corn fritters will join newcomers like the Chelsea roll (spicy blue crab, lemon chili mayo), with a full bar of including cocktails, wine and sake. In a nod to the neighborhood’s role in the LGBT rights movement, Haru will donate half of its sales on opening day, Aug. 18, to the nonprofit Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

To keep things interesting, Haru pays attention to trends — yes, they’ve got their own take on poke — but without compromising the standards that have helped them grow. “Guests are more informed and knowledgeable about food and have greater expectations than ever before,” Dodaro says. “‘Never fool the guest on the plate’ was an idea always stressed by the founder of Haru and continues to be a major part of our philosophy.”


We asked Dodaro for his “no tricks, just treats” recommendations when you’re craving something besides Japanese food.

Best late-night spot: “I like The Spotted Pig — always a wait, but worth it for the Roquefort burger.” 314 W. 11th St., West Village

Favorite under $10 meal: El Sabroso, a tiny spot hidden in a loading dock in the Garment District, a stone’s throw from our Central Kitchen. The menu changes daily — very good and inexpensive!” 265 W. 37th St.

Dining solo: “When I go out to eat by myself, you can usually find me at Balthazar in Nolita – they have great seafood, bread and people watching.” 80 Spring St.

Out-of-town guests: “My go-to when I have friends or family in town is Eataly. It’s always a crowd pleaser due to its impressive site, great service, food, coffee and gelato.” 200 Fifth Ave., Flatiron

Date night: “I like Jubilee, a small, romantic French bistro that’s a short walk from the East River. The mussels are exceptional and it’s actually one of the first places I took my wife.” 948 First Ave., Midtown East

Catch up with friends: “If you haven’t been to Jacob’s Pickles, be sure to check it out – great bar, drinks and fried pickles. Add in good company, and you’re guaranteed to have an awesome time.” 509 Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side

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