Neighbors and tourists in Old City just got another dining option in the form of Tuna Bar, a stylish Japanese spot from chef-owner Ken Sze, who learned the trade at his family’s Yokohama in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Sze and his wife, Cortney Cohen-Sze, are going for “polished casual” at the restaurant, set in the new Bridge building at 205 Race Street. It’s now in practice mode: open to the public but with the hours and menu being fine-tuned.
“I don’t have crazy techniques. It’s just simple food cooked well,” Sze says. “The focus is on the freshness of the fish. You can’t mess up if you get the freshest fish.”
Sze describes his style as traditional with a modern twist: “I try to play off what I know best — my family’s cooking.” He’s overseeing every aspect of the restaurant, which led to the menu already been pared down from his initial plan. “I’m all over the place, in the kitchen and at the bar and doing the paperwork,” he says. “The original menu was too aggressive.”
He’s definitely keeping on his grandmother’s wonton soup, a Chinese peasant soup that Sze says will surprise diners. “It’s light, it’s not the traditional wonton soup you see here, with that yellow broth,” he says. “The chefs thought I was crazy because it’s really different.”
For now, Tuna Bar is open for dinner, but Sze and Cohen-Sze (who also owns the Old City boutique Geisha House) would like to add lunch after the restaurant settles in.
They acknowledge Tuna Bar has a fine-dining feel, but are hoping it will be as much a neighborhood spot as a special occasion destination, with Cohen-Sze saying the goal is to keep it approachable.
“I don’t want just people in suits to come in,” Sze adds. “I’m more of a community person, I like to know my customers.”
Take a look inside: