In April, Czar Ice Bar opened at 56 East Andrews Drive in Buckhead, according to General Manager Vinnie Dauge of Stone Mountain. “It’s the coolest place to hang out,” he said, laughing.
The 27 ft. bar top is made of pure ice, which Dauge said gets manually ironed every morning and afternoon.
“Czar” means Russian emperor and the bar boasts some Russian artwork and European decor.
However, the cuisine is purely Japanese, made by Saito Saito, a world- traveling master sushi chef from Fuku-Shima Ken, Japan.
One may question how a Russian-themed restaurant ties in with Japanese cuisine.
“It doesn’t,” Dauge said, “Who cares?”
He said the owners, Steve de Haan and Stan Weaver, wanted to create the Russian vodka and ice bar, and convinced sushi chef Saito to hop on board.
“I was retired for five or six years,” Saito said. “I have worked in Paris, New York City, Hollywood and all over.”
Saito lives in Savannah, but stays in the Vinings Hilton during the week to cook for Czar.
His menu includes a variety of dishes, such as the “Yumi Yumi” sushi roll, which combine asparagus, spicy tuna, and three sauces with a crispy outside layer.
Saito makes pork dumplings (“Gyoza”) and his specialty “Mixed Fish Ceviche,” a light “Pacific Hawaiian style” plate of raw salmon, yellow tail, tuna and red and green peppers.
The fully-stocked bar has over 300 types of vodka from all over the world. Customers have the option to choose vodka by country or from a list of Czar specialty cocktails, including martinis, “vodka flights,” long drinks and infusions, which are made with freshly squeezed juices and homemade fruit purees.
Bartender Heather Chastain, of Midtown, said the homemade vodka infusions are made with Russian standard vodka and include flavors like blackberry raspberry mint and mango ginger. Each concoction has its own name, such as the “7even-7even-oh,” which is vodka, St. Germane Elderflower Liqueur and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.
“They have to be manicured. Some fruits give off flavors a lot faster and start to ferment faster,” Chastain said.
For example, she said Czar’s coconut vodka comes from the whole fruit, which is opened, strained and processed in the morning.
Aside from the Russian and Japanese food and drink combination, Czar offers a range of seating choices to cater to people ranging from 20s to 60s. There is the sushi bar, the ice bar and standard dinner tables, and several “European-style” couches created for “mingling,” according to Dauge.
“We’ll sit two people on the couches, and then we’ll sit two more,” he said. “Then, they’re all friends.”