Cincinnati-based Thunderdome Restaurant Group purchased Kaze OTR in March and is now rolling out newly redesigned dining areas, a rewritten menu and a separate bar that pays homage to Staten Island Hip Hop royalty the Wu-Tang Clan.
Not much has changed from Kaze's former identity as an upscale Japanese gastropub with a killer happy hour and unrivaled patio, only now Thunderdome — which also owns Bakersfield, The Eagle, CityBird and Currito (to name a few in the neighborhood) — is applying the same philosophy to Kaze that has made its other restaurants so successful.
"We're all fans of Wu-Tang; we like to give that nod to '90s Hip Hop," says Joe Lanni, a co-founder of Thunderdome.
In order to do that, they commissioned Covington-based design firm BLDG to create some design elements in the bar area, including a mural that "mark(s) this territory as the 36 Chambers Bar," Lanni says. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is the band's debut album.
"Wu-Tang is like a cult with its following," he says.
Lanni wanted Kaze to follow along with the other subtle design themes that helped differentiate his popular restaurants — like Bakersfield's Old West vibe, The Eagle's dedication to Southern hospitality, etc. The Wu-Tang Clan theme, much like the Hip Hop group itself, is much more in your face.
The aforementioned artwork by BLDG pays homage to the martial arts films sampled in the Wu's Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), which takes its name in part from the 1978 martial arts film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.
For the uninitiated, Wu-Tang Clan made its mark on pop culture by melding aggressive and inventive Hip Hop beats with sampled dialogue from classic kung-fu flicks, featuring a broad roster of talented lyricists who went on to change what it means to have a lasting career in the genre. The group's debut premiered 26 years ago and their performances still fill arenas across the globe.
Kaze's front dining room was redesigned to attract passersby on Vine Street with unobstructed windows, more lights and high tables to show off the restaurant's beautiful dishes and drinks.
Some new menu items include yakitori, a Japanese-style shish kebob skewering options including tender wagyu skirt steak, king salmon, chicken and scallion and asparagus; the latter transcends any other recipe using the vegetable thanks to the violently hot Thai-sourced coals over which they're grilled.
Sushi, ramen, fried rice, katsu and sashimi are on the menu, along with fluffy buns filled with glazed pork belly, shrimp and deep-fried panko chicken. Kaze's spicy chili dumplings are especially delicious, utilizing the mouth-numbing sichuan peppercorn in such a way that it does not overpower the palate, but adds a wonderfully unique sensation to each bite.
Another new feature on the menu is the ability to order “omakase,” which is a multi-course meal experience designed to take the guesswork out of the menu and gives the restaurant the choice of what is best to bring to the table. This is intended for large parties of six or more and gives everyone the chance to taste a bit of everything.
“It was all designed to create an atmosphere where friends could come, have a good time together,” Lanni says.
At the bar you can enjoy a wide selection of draft and bottled beer, sake and sake bombs, wines for any taste and a new cocktail list that includes the formidable Scorpion Bowl, a shareable tiki-style throwback, flaming centerpiece and all. Pitchers of their cocktails are available for the whole table as well.
“We’re not going to require you to share them, but we may require you to take an Uber home,” Lanni says, jokingly.
If you loved Kaze last year, chances are you'll enjoy the new design and direction of the restaurant. Hip Hop fans owe 36 Chambers Bar a visit, as it will turn on a more dance club vibe in the evening, with a live DJ on the scene to ensure the bar ain't nothin' to fuck with.
Kaze and 36 Chambers, 1400 Vine St., kazeotr.com.
A former version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the film as The 36 Chambers of Shaolin