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It’s as much about the steak as it is the sushi at the reimagined Feng in downtown Hartford

It’s as much about the steak as it is the sushi at the reimagined Feng in downtown Hartford
A sample of the Omakase 17-course, $110 tasting menu at Feng Chophouse. (Lindsay Bukowinski / Hartford Courant)

For about a dozen years, Feng Asian Bistro in downtown Hartford has been synonymous with sushi. Now the reimagined eatery also wants to be known for its beef.

The cosmopolitan pan-Asian restaurant, a fixture on Asylum Street since its 2006 opening, closed in the fall of 2017 for major renovations. In early April, it emerged as a new concept, Feng Chophouse, with the addition of a new steak program.

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Owner and original chef John Chen wanted to do dry-aged steaks as far back as Feng’s initial opening, but the space’s first setup didn’t allow room for the process, he says. The updated restaurant now has a room designated for dry-aging, lined with bricks of Himalayan sea salt, where fine steaks are aged from 21 to 30 days.

“I wanted to be the best in Connecticut...the best sushi, best steak,” Chen says. “Best of East, best of West. That’s what we plan to do.”

THE ATMOSPHERE: Feng Chophouse’s renovation yields an updated bar and cocktail area, the addition of windows to the street, a wine room, and a private dining space complete with conference room amenities. The atmosphere is dark and clubby with a refined, upscale feel.

FEATURED/NOTEWORTHY DISHES: Initially, customers returned looking for sushi, says executive chef Kristopher Hills, but as word got out about the steak options, guests began to gravitate to that side of the menu. Selections include center cut filet, NY strip, ribeye and a 25-ounce porterhouse, with black truffle, blue cheese and roasted garlic butter ($40 to $52.)

Feng's Porterhouse steak topped with black truffle, blue cheese and roasted garlic butter, with a Red Dragon cocktail, made with Bacardi and raspberry puree.
Feng's Porterhouse steak topped with black truffle, blue cheese and roasted garlic butter, with a Red Dragon cocktail, made with Bacardi and raspberry puree. (Lindsay Bukowinski / Hartford Courant)

Premium items include a 16-ounce American wagyu ribeye with black truffle butter, and prized A5 Miyazaki wagyu from Japan, served in a four-ounce portion with asparagus, shishito and trumpet mushroom (both $75.)

But aging isn’t just for beef at Feng. The restaurant has introduced edomae sushi, featuring fish that has been carefully aged anywhere from two days to one month to bring out its ideal flavor. Executive sushi chef Marco Lim wraps the fish with special paper towels to extract moisture, checking it daily to determine its readiness. The aging time depends on the type of fish.

During the aging process, enzymes break down proteins in the fish and create amino acids, Lim says, which produces the desired umami flavor.

Feng’s selection of nigiri ($4 to $18 per piece) features a wide variety of sliced fish over rice, like lean and fatty tunas from Spain, salmon from the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic and others imported from Japan, like red sea bream, yellowtail, uni and white tilefish.

Other sushi selections include hand rolls ($6 to $8), sashimi (10 to 15 pieces, $30 to $45) and signature rolls with premium ingredients, like the surf and turf roll with fried lobster, uni, truffle and A5 wagyu ($35.)

House made pasta with chef seasonal selections at Feng.
House made pasta with chef seasonal selections at Feng. (Lindsay Bukowinski / Hartford Courant)

Lim also prepares a 17-course omakase tasting menu ($110) that changes twice weekly, with its focus on nigiri. A recent iteration included kisu (Japanese whiting), otoro (fatty tuna), saba (mackerel) and ebisu dai (Japanese solderfish,) along with appetizers like egg custard with uni and caviar and a steamed dish of coral trout.

Beyond its sushi and steak programs, Feng also offers a variety of entrees: a citrus salmon, Chilean sea bass, housemade pasta, Korean BBQ short rib and braised chicken ($28 to $38) to appeal to larger crowds.

“If a group of 10 people come in for a business dinner, not everybody’s going to eat fish or steak,” Hills says. “We wanted to keep the menu well rounded so there are options for everyone.”

Feng is also recapturing a lunchtime crowd with quick options like salads, Wagyu burgers, ramen, noodles and rice, and sushi options like maki rolls and chef’s selection of nigiri.

“We tried to go a little lighter, a little more easily fast paced,” says Hills. Lunch entrees range from $12 to $29.

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Almond Joy cocktail made with Malibu coconut rum, Godiva White Liqueur, and coconut milk at Feng.
Almond Joy cocktail made with Malibu coconut rum, Godiva White Liqueur, and coconut milk at Feng. (Lindsay Bukowinski / Hartford Courant)

THE BAR: The new Feng specializes in wine, sake and Japanese whiskeys. A slew of cocktails feature cuisine-complementing flavors: citrus ginger sangria, available in both red and white varieties; a mango ginger mule; a spicy chili margarita; and a Bubbling Geisha with Ozeki Hana sparkling sake, prosecco and raspberry puree. The Feng Fashion features Peak Japanese whiskey, yuzu bitters, orange marmalade and Amarena cherries. Cocktails are $12.

Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 6 p.m., with specials on wine, hot sake, select draft beers and two specialty cocktails ($5 to $7.) Snacks include daily oysters, calamari, Wagyu sliders, yakitori skewers and sushi hand rolls ($2 to $12.)

HOURS AND LOCATION: Feng Chophouse, 93 Asylum St., Hartford, is open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 11:30 am. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday, 4 to 11 p.m. Closed Sunday. 860-549-3364, fengchophouse.com.

The atmosphere at Feng is dark and clubby with a refined, upscale feel.
The atmosphere at Feng is dark and clubby with a refined, upscale feel. (Lindsay Bukowinski / Hartford Courant)
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