CINCINNATI -- What comes after eight? For Tobias Harris, the answer is Neuf (French for “nine”), a new restaurant that will open at 709 Main St. in downtown Cincinnati.
Harris, one of the owners of the popular Asian boutique restaurant Huit (French for “eight”), will launch Neuf's soft opening on Nov. 3. He and his partners, Trang Vo and Eduardo Reyes, plan to showcase “Asian soul food” and expand on what Huit started.
“We feel there’s a lot of room in Asian soul food that we cannot develop at Huit. The space is too small,” Harris said.
Neuf will occupy the space that was previously Dynasty Chinese restaurant. According to Harris, although they had to “gut the whole thing,” the space offered something that was hard to come by: an Asian kitchen.
“We need an Asian kitchen with wok (stations),” Tobias said. “The way we move around, it makes you appreciate the difference between a Western and Asian kitchen.”
The kitchen at Neuf will have five wok burners and will be about five times bigger than Huit’s. The bigger space will allow Harris and his team to experiment more with new concepts.
“We’ll play a lot with duck, short ribs and lamb,” Harris said.
Additionally, they will create items like a better laksa and more inspired fried rice with a wider repertoire of mixed ingredients and sauces.
A liquor license is in the works for Neuf, which will allow future beer pairings. Harris already has started talks with breweries such as Rhinegeist, MadTree and West Sixth. He cited an example of a dish that would pair well with beer: braised lamb shank with whole Sichuan peppers. Neuf also will have a full bar, although Harris anticipates not rolling out the bar program until a month or so after opening.
Including the bar, Neuf will seat 80. Harris envisions offering lunch and dinner service six or seven days a week.
Reyes, who is also the executive chef, will move from Huit to lead Neuf's kitchen team. According to Harris, they have fine-tuned Huit's kitchen to allow for Reyes’ departure and will still be able to operate with the staff and structure currently in place. They plan to add more innovative menu items at Huit, with the support of the kitchen at Neuf.
“The Neuf kitchen will also be a commissary kitchen,” Harris said.
Harris said that neither Huit nor Neuf is about fusion food: “We’re simply presenting Asian flavors in a more approachable way.”
The Huit team is expanding its stake in the Cincinnati restaurant space on the heels of Harris’ recent relocation to New York City. About four months ago, Harris took a job with a restaurant design firm in New York. His training is squarely in restaurant design, and he previously worked at Cincinnati-based design firm FRCH Design Worldwide.
While this may seem inconvenient, Harris said it’s the perfect scenario for him. He plans to travel regularly between the two cities, saying that he has been in Cincinnati every month since he moved. Being at the epicenter of the restaurant industry, he said he’s excited about sharing what he experiences in New York with his business partners and customers in Cincinnati.
Grace Yek writes about food for WCPO Digital. She is a certified chef-de-cuisine with the American Culinary Federation, and a former chemical engineer. Questions or comments? Connect with her on Twitter: @Grace_Yek.