Chris Johnson

Sake Sommelier

New York

Foregoing the suit and tie, Chris Johnson opted out of a desk job to teach English in the Japanese countryside for three years. It was here that he fell in love with sake. Since returning to New York in 1996, Johnson has immersed himself in the study of sake and the restaurant business. He began as a prep cook at Katsu-Hama in Midtown Manhattan. Over the years, he has held positions at various New York restaurants, such as Balthazar, BONDST and Town. Johnson is a sake sommelier certified by the Sake Service Institute, as well as a member of the board of directors for The Joy of Sake, a nonprofit organization that promotes the Japanese alcoholic beverage. He has also served as a senior judge for the U.S. National Sake Appraisal since 2000. Johnson paired up with Jonathan Morr to open BONDST, and in January 2013, they debuted Cherry. Serving as the sake sommelier at the Chelsea restaurant, Johnson uses sake pairing as a way to introduce the drink to the uninitiated.

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  • On November 4, 2013
    Chris Johnson answered the question: Chris Johnson

    Which New York City restaurants are best for brunch?

    I go out to brunch when I can. Balthazar is a must. LIC Market in Long Island City does an amazing brunch. I love Zum Schneider for brunch as well just because it’s that kind of alternative, totally different brunch cuisine. It’s a German beer hall, but the food is really solid and there’s a great energy there. For the younger, crazier scene, The Sunburnt Cow is fun.
  • On November 4, 2013
    Chris Johnson answered the question: Chris Johnson

    What are the best places to stay in New York City?

    The NoMad is great. I like Chambers Hotel. I think there are times that a place like Trump SoHo New York is kind of cool. I prefer smaller boutique hotels, but there’s a pretty great rooftop deck at Trump SoHo. Soho Grand Hotel is also great.
  • On November 4, 2013
    Chris Johnson answered the question: Chris Johnson

    When is the best time to visit New York City?

    My favorite time of year bounces between spring and fall, but I think I like fall a little better. It’s just starting to get chilly. It’s not cold, but it’s not hot anymore. People are still out and about having brunch and walking around in shorts and maybe a sweatshirt. I just think the temperature is perfect for taking a walk around and seeing all the great things that New York has to offer. I live in Alphabet City — I’ve lived here for 16 years now — and I love fall in this neighborhood because everybody’s out having cocktails on the deck or at outdoor restaurants. And as the trees start to change color, New York is a pretty amazing place.
  • On November 4, 2013
    Chris Johnson answered the question: Chris Johnson

    What are the best things to do in New York City?

    1. MoMA PS1. It’s an awesome thing to do. PS1 kind of correlates into the other museums, so kind of link that as one rather than saying all five museums. There’s that ability to go to MoMA and see some brilliant artwork, which I think is something everyone should do while they’re here.

    2. Brunch at Balthazar. That definitely falls into things to do.

    3. Sake crawl. There are some really good sake places in the city. Culminating with Cherry and what we’ve done there, I think something that’s fun and unique is to go around and have sake at different places.

    4. Bike ride along the West Side Highway. We don’t take enough time to do it. Cruise along and look at that scene of the skyline.

    5. Rooftop in Brooklyn. It’s not as easy to do, but if you can get on a rooftop in Brooklyn or Long Island City, do it. As awesome as our skyline is for those of us who live in the city, it’s kind of ridiculous when you’re over in Brooklyn and looking at the skyline. Have a glass of wine and check out the view that’s iconic for people around the world, but we don’t get to see as often on our own.