The Chiba Experience: Westfield Sushi Bar Is a Local Favorite
Writer: Suzanne Huntzinger
Photographer: Amy Payne
There’s so much to love about Indy, and Chiba Restaurant owner, Keith Dusko, is about to give you even more reasons to love it.
Dusko opened Chiba Indianapolis just about a year ago, bringing with him all the Asian flavors and culture from his Chiba New Orleans restaurant, and celebrating all the excellence that Indy has to offer.
Tucked away off the beaten path in Westfield off Park Street, Chiba invites you to an international experience, mixed with a New Orleans vibe transplanted to a world-class city. The restaurant has three dining areas. The main dining room where you enter is modern and sleek, then back doors lead to an open patio for casual seating during warmer weather. Just beyond the patio are two separate, enclosed seating areas. The full bar, an ideal spot for a quiet date night, is cozy and relaxed. Next to the bar area is an area for guests to listen to Chiba’s featured musical guests.
“We have a great happy hour every day 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and we feature live music with bands from New Orleans featured regularly,” Dusko says.
Some might be skeptical that Indy is ready for a restaurant of Chiba’s kind, but Dusko says the timing is perfect.
“Chiba NOLA was part of the post Katrina renaissance in the city, and we’re trying Chiba in Westfield,” he says. “I want to integrate what Indy deserves. Indy is the best-kept secret in the country. It offers a great sense of community, great schools, and it’s a great place to raise a family. Not to mention the whole racing scene.”
While Chiba Indy is new to the area, Dusko is no stranger to the Circle City. The self-proclaimed surfer dude and beach boy has been all over. Born in New Jersey into a military family, he spent time in California, New York, New Orleans and Hawaii. He was introduced to Asian flavors at 10 years old.
“I was raised to eat what was put in front of me,” he says. “My Dad put sushi in front of me and told me to eat it. I tried it and loved it. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the Japanese culture, their cuisine, sense of honor and precision.”
That first sushi encounter sparked a successful career in the restaurant business. Starting at Haru Restaurant, a Japanese sushi restaurant, Dusko mastered every job from bussing tables and washing dishes to line cook and waiter. “I had some amazing mentors,” he says.
In the beginning, Dusko stuck with the restaurant business to make extra money for his racing dream. Dusko was part of the Road to Indy program, an elite scholarship-based driver development program to break into Indy Car racing. He completed the program and enjoyed some success, but stuck with the restaurant business instead, ultimately becoming the Senior Director of Haru Holding Group.
Then in 2011, Dusko and a partner from Haru joined forces to open Chiba NOLA. While launching Chiba, he met his future wife who worked for Andretti Motorsports at the time. But a couple years later after they married, his wife got a new job in a new city — racing mecca, Indianapolis. With an entrepreneurial spirit, Dusko contemplated his next venture and found the perfect home for Chiba’s next location in Indy.
While scouting properties for Chiba Indianapolis, he found Park Street in Westfield, a street being primed for revitalization. The property Dusko found was 135 years old and needed a complete rehab. He worked with the landlord, getting permission to completely gut it and rebuild the inside from scratch. Chiba Indianapolis opened February 2017, and just over a year later, he’s turned it into a tremendous success.
“It’s eerily similar to Chiba NOLA, and I want to share that culture with Indy,” he says.
Making food from scratch is just one of the things that makes Chiba so popular. The chef cuts every piece of fish to order, prepares the sushi rice and sauces from scratch, and the short ribs are braised in house. Although the phenomenal sushi bar is a large part of Chiba, it’s not the only thing.
“We’re a restaurant with sushi and we do it well. It’s a pristine product, always flown in fresh from Honolulu,” Dusko says. “But we have a full menu of steaks, chicken, duck, and pork.” Among their popular dishes is their Bridgewater roll with salmon, avocado, mango, yellowtail, and crunch, and the divine Braised Short Rib Tempura. But don’t forget to leave room for dessert. Once you try the Banana Tempura Bread Pudding, you’ll never stop craving it.
Chiba seems to have everything going for it with outstanding food, drinks, and live music. But Dusko’s standards go deeper.
“We strive for perfection, but even simpler, we want to take care of our guests,” he says. “Whether they’re out celebrating a special occasion, or they’ve had a bad day, they want to be taken care of, and it’s our job to do that. We want guests to walk away thinking they just had the most amazing experience. That’s how I want to run the restaurant.”
Dusko has a full plate with two Chiba locations. Although it’s a juggle traveling back and forth from Chiba NOLA monthly to check in, he says he’d like to expand in the Indy area.
“It’s got to be the right situation. I have a loyal customer base, and I want that to continue,” he says. “I have a great team and we’re truly symbiotic. I don’t know what’s ahead. Life happens, and we just keep pushing forward.”
Experience Chiba today. They’re open Thursday through Saturday for lunch, and Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. You can make your reservation online at chiba-indy.com, or call 317-804-5367. Visit Chiba’s Facebook page for updates on musical guests and specials. Chiba Indianapolis is located at 228 Park Street in Westfield.