Ninja’s Nina Cha Serves 800-Degree-Rock Soup, Frightens Small Children

"The first week they gave us the history of ninjas and what’s thought to be myth and legend."Photo: Melissa Hom
Nina Cha found her calling when she answered a Craigslist ad that read, "WANTED: Ninjas who do magic." We asked her about her qualifications, and she told us about her brushes with Frank Bruni’s wrath and Tara Reid’s posse.

Nina Cha
Ninja New York

25 Hudson St., nr. Reade St.; 212-274-8500

What kind of training did you get?
There were two months of extensive training before we opened. The first week they gave us the history of ninjas and what’s thought to be myth and legend. We had magic classes once or twice a week. And tastings.

Do kids get scared?
Some do, because it’s very dark and we have ninjas popping in and out.

How do you prepare the "meteorite pot"?
The rock, which is about 800 degrees Fahrenheit, is on a big tray that comes with fresh green leaves and a kettle of soy-milk soup with clam and bacon and a couple slices of wild hog. We cut the vegetables up, put the bacon in, pour the soup, and put the rock on top using tongs. You see it boiling instantly. It cooks fully after two or three minutes. They imported a special oven from Japan that goes up to 1,000 degrees.

Is it tricky to serve dishes like that?
One time I had a customer who had a fire phobia, so I had to tell her about every dish that involved fire.

Do celebrities visit?

Susan Sarandon brought her children. Tara Reid came in with ten or twelve people. They had a good time.

You have some of the most secluded dining areas in the city.
We have this one room that’s more discreet than the others. Whenever a customer asks for a romantic room, that’s the one we won’t give them. We once saw a couple sitting next to each other, and the lady was doing something to the guy. On their comment card they wrote that the rooms weren’t private enough.

The restaurant received one of the most scathing reviews Frank Bruni has ever written.
The managers were really nervous because they’re not too used to the New York restaurant world. We explained to them that Mr. Bruni isn’t a big fan of theme restaurants.

— Daniel Maurer