By: Mark Fullman
Teak OTR restaurant at the corner of 12th, and Race Street, may sound familiar. It is the offshoot of the Mt Adams icon Teak. Owned and operated by Sri Lanken immigrant Chanaka Delanerole.
Chanaka came to the United States in 1982 to study economics at The Univesity of Cincinnati. He insists that owning restaurants was never his intention that it just happened.
From 2001 to 2018, Chanaka owned and operated other Mt. Adam icons like the Celestial, Mt Adams fish house, and Longworth’s.
In July of 2020, Chanaka reopened the much-anticipated Teak after numerous construction delays and lockdowns.
Much like the old Teak, its new location exists within a picturesque urban setting with bustling streets, pedestrians, Washington Park, and Music hall off in the distance. The dining is much more intimate than the multi-leveled older Teak, having to share the floor with the bar, a mere 80 seats compared to the more illustrious 200 is all they have.
The menu still has many previous items like fried rice and pad thai and old stir fry favorites like seafood delight and the Teak trio. There are house specials like mango tango Izumi Dai, Crispy Pork Belly, and seared Scottish Salmon.
One dish that stood out was Lad Na. It introduces Chinese broccoli to his menu. Also known as Gai Lan, it is a plant similar to rapini or broccoli raab.
He pairs this with fried wide noodles and a thick sauce in the dish Lad Na. Teak has appetizers with a more contemporary slant like steamed mussels, crispy calamari, crab puffs, and Dim Sum. And of course, there is Sushi. Much like the old Teak, there is a complete sushi menu featuring sashimi and rolls.
Teak also has deep-fried delights like the monkey brain. It’s is a deep-fried avocado stuffed with spicy tuna and cream cheese. A la carte Sushi featuring everything from tuna to yellowtail and eel to squid is an option for the more adventurous.
If not, the chef can choose a sashimi platter for you, his choice of 7 or an entree of 15 with a variety of sushi rolls, some traditional like the California or tuna rolls and others unusual like the volcano (Izumi dai, salmon and cream cheese deep fried) or the zombie (tuna, salmon, Izumi dai, and Masago sauce).
In the end, Chanaka maintains that the community in OTR welcomed him to his new home with open arms. He kept his doors open during the worst times of the pandemic, providing carryout for his customers and feeding the homeless whenever possible.
Much of his success, he admits, is due in part to the support of his customers. 80% percent of his regulars from the original Teak still frequent his establishment and love it.