Rolling in Fat City

The Fat City entertainment district in Metairie has been the subject of more attention lately, as parish officials seek to buff up the area. But all on their own, a few new restaurant additions are making the neighborhood look like a center of sushi.

Earlier this month, Ohana (3559 18th St., 504-888-4568, ohananola.com), opened in a former Circle K convenience store. The restaurant bills itself as “modern fusion,” but really it serves a familiar, and extensive, Japanese menu along with a smattering of dishes from other genres. There’s a Thai-style curried seafood hot pot, for instance, and Szechuan-style fried chicken.

Just steps away, Akira (3226 N. Arnoult Rd., 504-304-8820), opened a little earlier in the year, replacing Salvatore’s Ristorante. Some traces of that longtime Italian eatery remain, like a bank of windows looking into a garden of palms and Romanesque statues. Deep booths line one wall, a long sushi bar holds down another and in a second room a series of hibachi tables are arrayed like blackjack tables in a casino, with plush chairs and gleaming tile floors completing the look. The menu is loaded with familiar Japanese dishes, hibachi combination dinners and lunch specials.

Both new restaurants share the block with a third, much smaller and much older Japanese restaurant. Since opening in 2002, Kanno (3205 Edenborn Ave., Metairie, 504-455-5730), has been a standout in the local sushi scene for its highly original approach. Some seats at the tiny sushi bar are permanently reserved for regulars. But now if you happen to get shut out here, there are many other perches nearby to watch the rolls take shape.

Special lunch for a special school

Now in its 37th year, Chefs’ Charity for Children has grown into one of the city’s oldest ongoing culinary fundraisers. Along the way, participation in the event has become something of a tradition for guests and chefs alike. This year, there are a few twists to the tradition.

Chefs’ Charity for Children gathers a diverse collection of well-known local chefs for a luncheon benefitting for St. Michael’s Special School, an Uptown institution for developmentally disabled children. The event is coming up earlier than usual, on Jan. 14 at the Hilton Riverside Hotel (2 Poydras St.). Tickets typically sell out in advance.

This year there are also two high-profile additions to the chef lineup: Donald Link (of Herbsaint, Cochon, Butcher and Peche) and Tory McPhail (of Commander’s Palace and SoBou).

As usual, the chefs will conduct cooking demonstrations while guests are served a banquet lunch. Link and McPhail join long-time chef contributors Andrea Apuzzo, John Besh, Leah Chase, John Folse, Goffredo Fraccaro (of La Riviera, a Metairie restaurant defunct since Hurricane Katrina), Emeril Lagasse, Greg Reggio (of the Zea, Semolina and new Mizado restaurants), Frank and Tommy Wong (of the Northshore’s Trey Yuen restaurants) and David Woodward (of the Hilton Riverside Hotel).

The luncheon is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets cost $65 and include a cookbook with 35 recipes from the featured chefs. Tickets are available online at stmichaelspecialschool.com or at (504) 524-7285.