Introducing: NAO, a new Asian steakhouse on Avenue Road from Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji
Name: NAO (an acronym for “New and Old”)
Contact Info: 90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141, naosteakhouse.com
Owners: Charles Khabouth, Hanif Harji, Stuart Cameron and Tim Foley
Chefs: Stuart Cameron (also the exec chef at Patria, Weslodge and Byblos) and chef de cuisine Andrew Bradford.
The Food: The Asian-American fusion trend finds full expression in this plush new steakhouse from restaurant impresarios Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji. NAO offers some caveman-sized cuts of beef—including a 64-ounce rib steak that’s carved tableside—but it’s not just a boys’ club. “We wanted NAO to be female-friendly,” says Kabbouth. Lighter options (salads, tartare) are punched up with predominantly Japanese flavourings, like miso, yuzu, ponzu and “Bull-Dog” sauce, a sweet and savoury Japanese condiment. (NAO makes its own version in-house.) Cameron spent months researching and sourcing the very best of everything, including fresh wasabi from B.C., Wagyu beef from Japan and bamboo barrel–aged finishing salt from South Korea.
The Drinks: Michael Garrett was brought over from Weslodge to create a cocktail menu featuring 14 signature drinks crafted with house-made tonics, syrups and bitters. (The Basho Sour, for instance, blends pineapple-infused sake with lemon juice, hibiscus syrup and egg whites.)
The Place: A multi-tiered chandelier hangs over the split-level space, which is flush with fancy design details (Italian-leather banquettes, African oak floors). Painted mirrors depicting skeletal fish, among other scenes, are simultaneously eerie and enchanting.