Neighborhood Eats: Unique outdoor dining experience at Dr. Clark in Chinatown

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Restaurants throughout New York City have been getting creative when it comes to outdoor seating and this one in Chinatown is unique.

At Dr. Clark, you have to take off your shoes, before you slide into your seating area, which is warm, despite being exposed to the elements.

"This is actually something I wanted to do since I came to this country 10 years ago," said Yudai Kanayama, owner.

Kanayama grew up on the Japanese island of Hokkaido where it's colder and snowier than New York City.

During the winter, this is how outdoor dining is done.

"This set up we have here is a Kotasu table which is a heater built under the tabletop with a blanket covering your feet," Kanayama said.

"It's heated, the food is excellent, and you feel like you're in Japan," a customer said.

"It's so different, their whole setup is great," another said.

"We're so warm with the blanket and heated floor, it's cozy," a diner said.

"I think it's a really interesting setup and unique," another diner said. "It's warm under the table so that's good, hands are cold, but the food is warm."

The food is also traditional.

"The signature dish is tabletop BBQ called Genghis Khan lamb BBQ," Kanayama said. "We cook it on a table that gives more warmth to the customer."

There's also a variety of hot pot options like Udon noodles, sashimi layered over rice, addictive cabbage, and French fries with sea urchin.

"We had the salmon hot pot, the smoked yellowtail, and stuffed squid with uni," a customer said. "It's a unique menu and I'd definitely come back."

The restaurant is named for Dr. Clark, an American who helped Hokkaido prosper agriculturally in the late 1800s.

"If you ask anybody from Hokkaido who is their hero, they're going to say, Dr. Clark," Kanayama said.

Kanayama first opened the restaurant on March 15, 2020. Right when the city locked down.

When curbside dining was allowed, Kanayama first offered outside karaoke, a nod to the former tenant, a legendary karaoke spot called Whinnie's.

But when the city quashed the karaoke, Kanayama brought in the Kotasu tables which have served him well.

"Being so flexible during the pandemic was the key for me to be successful," Kanayama said.

You can also dine inside at Dr. Clark. There's a set price-fixed menu for the outdoor dining experience, and it's best to book ahead and wear your best socks.

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