Opening soon on Oak Street, Sukeban offers the taste and experience of a Japanese pub

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Jacqueline Blanchard photo

Sukeban, 8126 Oak St.

Chef Jacqueline Blanchard has a passion for Japanese culture and food and will be sharing that passion at her restaurant Sukeban, set to open on Oak Street in July.

The name, Sukeban, means “boss girl” or “delinquent girl,” a term used for the girl gangs that formed in Japan in the 1970s and ’80s.

Oak Street’s “boss girl,” Blanchard, grew up in Assumption Parish along Bayou Lafourche and is a veteran of some of the nation’s most highly acclaimed restaurants.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from Nicholls State University, she moved to California to work in the kitchens of the French Laundry and Bouchon in Napa Valley.

From there, she worked her way across the country to Frasca Food & Wine in Boulder, Colorado, and then to Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.

Jacqueline Blanchard

Back to New Orleans, she served as executive sous chef at Restaurant August before moving to San Francisco, where she was sous chef at Benu, a three Michelin star restaurant that earned the honor during her tenure.

Ready for a change, Blanchard and her business partner, Brandt Cox, opened Coutelier, a shop that specializes in high-end culinary knives, at 8600 Oak St. in 2015. While researching her knife shop, she developed a love for Japanese techniques and culture.

“Throughout the last 10 years, we’ve traveled to Japan for work,” Blanchard said. “Certain techniques in my culinary career have always been Japanese-oriented. A lot of those techniques lend themselves to fine dining. Craftsmanship, technique and execution are important aspects that have been important to me throughout my career.”

Blanchard considers her trips to Japan part of what shaped the idea of what she wanted in her own restaurant.

Sukeban is modeled on the Izakaya restaurants in Japan. The Izakaya is a Japanese pub, a drinking establishment that serves food. This 22-seat spot will serve temaki, Japanese hand-rolls.

“They are these beautifully crafted temaki rolls that are made by hand that you can eat in three or four bites,” Blanchard said. “They have an amazing crunchy, crispy nori texture that you really don’t experience with most sushi.”

Blanchard sources the ingredients for her menu in the same way she sources her knives, through the relationships she’s formed in Japan.

“You become close with these families, and it’s a very interactive relationship,” she said. “We form connections with people, and it allows us to get ingredients that we wouldn’t normally have access to.”

Blanchard wants Sukeban to embody everything that she loves and misses about Japan. New Orleans has no shortage of sushi restaurants, but she’s hoping that Sukeban will stand out both in its food and the dining experience.

She noted that in both Japanese and New Orleans, culinary culture, focus is put on seafood, rice and drinking. She wants her restaurant to be a representation of the Japanese traditions that she loves.

“Japan has become a part of my life and my soul,” she said. “I crave traveling there, and I crave that food all the time.”

Another important element of Sukeban is the sake. She said that she wants customers to be able to sit down with a glass of natural wine or a bottle of sake and sip it with a friend.

When dining at Sukeban, the emphasis will be on Tamaki rolls that will be served to the customer fresh as they are made. The idea is to eat them immediately to preserve the integrity of the warm sushi rice, nori, dried edible seaweed and the other fillings such as scallops, crab or uni.

“As soon as you finish one roll, you’ll get your next one,” Blanchard said. “We want to make sure that you’re not getting that chewy, soggy version of the roll that most of us have experienced. It’s not a California roll or cut roll kind of place.”

Blanchard has been renovating the former Blue Cypress Books spot into a restaurant with a long bar. Sukeban will be primarily walk-in, save for the six-top booth in its window; she will not take reservations for its 16 bar seats.

The restaurant will be fast-casual, Blanchard said, a spot where you can stop in, enjoy a bite to eat and a drink, and be done within an hour.

She’s excited to bring something new to the New Orleans sushi scene and Oak Street as well.

“I think a city like New Orleans deserves a place like this,” she said. “I love Oak Street and I feel like we’re investing a young energy into the neighborhood. No one really ever went to Oak Street to eat dinner, but that’s slowly changing.”

Sukeban’s hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m., with plans to expand in the future.

Sukeban
8126 Oak St.
domo@barsukeban.com
www.barsukeban.com
Instagram: @barsukeban

 

Reporter Marielle Songy can be reached at mlsongy@gmail.com.

One thought on “Opening soon on Oak Street, Sukeban offers the taste and experience of a Japanese pub

  1. This place is absolutely phenomenal. Great atmosphere, attentive staff, exceptional food, and an excellent drink selection. This is just what Oak Street needed!!! I have been to many Japanese food restaurants from NYC to Tokyo and this truly hit the spot. I highly recommend it. The salmon sashimi w/ ikura was out of this world. We will be back

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