Photo composite by Noëmie Carrant. Photos courtesy of Akiko Thurnauer, Studio 151, Ivan Ramen, and Deanna Ting

Resy RegularsNew York

Cha Kee’s Akiko Thurnauer Loves Noodles for Breakfast, and Dancing for Dinner

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Where do chefs go and, more importantly, where do they love to eat on their days off? In Resy Regulars, we ask Resy chefs to tell us where they’re regulars on a typical day off from the restaurant.

Akiko Thurnauer exudes effortless downtown cool vibes. For six days a week, the former graphic designer is the executive chef of Cha Kee in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where she puts together innovative Japanese-influenced Cantonese dishes.

At Cha Kee, which opened in September, her soy milk-braised lettuce, a nod to a dish of napa cabbage softened in soy milk, which she perfected in the kitchen of Danny Bowien’s Mission Chinese Food, has turned skeptics of cooked lettuce into converts. The neighborhood is still reeling from the anti-Asian sentiment and declining tourism related to the pandemic, but Cha Kee, with its stylish interiors and Thurnauer’s own creative interpretations of bone marrow ramen, curry puffs, and chile-lemongrass branzino, is just one of many reasons beckoning New Yorkers back to Chinatown these days.

On her days off, the Tokyo-to-East-Village transplant and self-proclaimed dance junkie still stays rooted to downtown Manhattan, and she packs in as many opportunities to dance and eat — even simultaneously — at local spots throughout the city. Until the early morning hours, you’ll likely find her grooving with a crew of DJs and dancers. “I don’t want to waste any time,” Thurnauer says, laughing. “I want to have fun.”

Here’s a look at how she’d spend a typical day off in New York City, and all the places where she calls herself a regular.