|2004 Summer - Fresh From Japan - Matsuri - Masa - Megu - 21 Other Restaurants
Japanese Cuisine in New York
21 Recommended Restaurants
Japanese cuisine in Manhattan is much more than the news-making spots covered on previous pages. We surveyed sophisticated diners to learn where else they go, not just for sushi, but also for kaiseki (the elegant succession of seasonal delicacies rooted in the tea ceremony), soba (the cuisine based on buckwheat noodles), and the creative flavors of Japanese fusion. Other places we list are sincerely authentic at what they do, and ryotei offer private tatami rooms.
survey and text by Yori Irisawa
822 Madison Ave. (at E. 69th St.) / Tel. 212-988-7277
Open daily, 12 to 4 PM, 5:30 to 9:30 PM / Set menus from $55 to $200
Run by ITOEN, famed producer of Japanese green tea, Kai shares quarters with the company's shop selling 75 kinds of tea as well as tea utensils. Executive chef Hitoshi Kagawa imports ingredients three times a week from Japan. Annually he visits Japanese potters for dishware that best suits his seasonal cuisine. When ordering sake, a guest can choose his favorite sake cup from a selection offeredtruly a considerate service of this restaurant. Kai offers an omakase (chef's choice) and regular fixed-price menu.
|Assorted desserts (left): soy-milk blanc-mange in a cedar cup, with yuba chip, black sesame cake and chocolate cake both laced with green tea. Appetizers (center) include sushi with tuna, beans, steamed abalone, urchin in vinegar, lightly marinated and fried sole with Kyoto carrots and udo stalks.
111 E. 49th St. / Tel. 212-355-0440
Open weekdays, noon to 2 PM; daily, 5:30 to 10 PM / Lunch from $30, dinner from $50
The counter in the entrance remains as a vestige of the tempura restaurant that opened here in the Waldorf-Astoria in 1974. This is a perfect fusion of Japanese and American spirit. There are five tatami-mat rooms. Original dishes, incorporating traditional Japanese and modern cuisines, include whole deep-fried conger eel (anago-ipponage) and foie gras sushi, a combination of sushi and Western ingredients. The interior was created by Adam Tihany, who also designed such famous dining spots as Le Cirque.
Kitano Hotel, 66 Park Ave. / Tel. 212-885-7111
Open daily, 11:45 AM to 2:30 PM, 6 to 10 PM / Lunch from $19, dinner from $50
This renowned 170-year-old restaurant opened its New York branch when the Kitano renovated in 1995. It has three tatami-mat rooms, and fixed-price and á la carte menus. Weekly changing flower arrangements in the Sogetsu style enhance the restaurant's refined atmosphere. Dishes showcase seasonal, nonfarmed seafood and other ingredients flown from Tsukiji Market and Kyushu four times each week. It is closed for lunch on summer weekends.
6 Bond St. / Tel. 212-777-2500
Open daily, 6 PM to 12 AM; closed major holidays / Dinner from $25
Executive chef Hiroshi Nakahara presents innovative sushi made with the choicest, most elusive ingredients from all over the world, such as hon-maguro tuna from Spain and crabs from Alaska. He has impressed diners since the three-story restaurant opened in 1998. There's seating for 200; high-spirited chefs welcome guests to counter seats, while the dining area is cozier.
1026 2nd Ave. / Tel. 212-355-3557
Open 6 to 11:30 PM; closed Sundays, holidays / Sushi from $30, multi-course omakase from $75
Proprietor Eiji Ichimura imports the choicest fish and shellfish from Tsukiji, Setouchi (the Seto Inland Sea area), and Kyushu four times a week for his authentic sushi. He also designed the restaurant's simple, subdued interior and selected the dishware made by a potter friend. Since he opened in 2003 the reputation of his sushi has spread widely among connoisseurs by word of mouth.
E. 5th St. / Tel. 212-979-1012
Open 6:30 to 10:30 PM; closed Sundays / Courses $34 to $85 (multi-course omakase)
Quietly located in the East Village with a diminutive window and no signboard, this place arouses curiosity. Proprietor Jack Lamb opened his traditional-style sushi restaurant after being deeply impressed by authentic sushi in Japan. Inside the warmly lit, vaulted, bamboo-lined space are tables for 24 and a six-seat counter, where chef Masato Shimizu makes sought-after sushi.
7 E. 47th St., 2nd Fl. / Tel. 212-317-2802
Open 12 to 2 PM, 5:30 to 10PM; closed Sundays, holidays / Lunch $18, dinner from $40
After training in Tokyo, Toshihiro Uezu opened his own place in New York in 1977. Taking extreme care in selecting ingredientseven sometimes rejecting those flown from Tsukijihe maintains ultimate quality. His "minced fatty tuna with caviar" is a creation any sushi connoisseur should know. A lacquered counter and calligraphy by a master provide a relaxing atmosphere.
105 Hudson St. / Tel. 212-219-0500
Open weekdays, 11:45 AM to 2:15 PM, daily 5:45 to 10:15 PM / Multi-course omakase from $80
Owner-chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, who once wrote "Cooking is my life," established his inventive cuisine by developing dishes such as soft-shell crab roll, and now has 11 restaurants all over the world. NOBU has unassailably established itself as one of the embodiments of "new Japanese" cuisine in New York. The decor conjures aspects of Japanese culture such as kabuki theater.
1143 1st Ave. / Tel. 212-371-0238
Open 5:30 PM to 3 AM; closed Sundays / Multi-course omakase from $35
Five years ago, Seki opened his restaurant under the tutelage and auspices of Masatoshi Sugio (of Sushi of Gari), inheriting the style of authentic sushi that does not rely on soy sauce. Seki also offers á la carte dishes such as tempura. The 40-seat restaurant has counter seating and a dining room. Open until 3 AM, it is frequented by many people in the restaurant profession.
SUSHI OF GARI
402 E. 78th St. / Tel. 212-517-5340
Open 5 to 10:45 PM, to 9:45 PM Sundays; closed Mondays / Sushi from $20, omakase from $50
To keep diners from dredging sushi in soy sauce, Masatoshi Sugio invented sauces that don't mask the fresh ingredients he imports three times a week. He changes his sake selections seasonally. "Gari" (pickled ginger) is another way of pronouncing the kanji that form his name (his ginger is superb). He has a branch in Aoyama, Tokyo, and will open another in New York this July.
||Gari's sushi includes
tuna with tofu sauce (top left), sea bream with organic vegetable
salad, abalone with its liver (bottom left), chopped eel with avocado,
and squid with uni sauce (second from bottom right).
80 Columbus Circle at W. 60th St. / Tel. 212-805-8801
Open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner / Lunch from $25, dinner from $65
Atop the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park, diners find chef Noriyuki Sugie fusing French and Japanese cuisine. He orders seafood from Japan twice a week, using it in appetizers for tasting menus, in his Bento Box, and in fish specials. His novel ideas appear in everything from food arrangements to desserts. "Asiate" derives from French assiette, meaning plate.
6 Clinton St. / Tel. 212-674-6300
Open 6 to 11 or 11:30PM; Sundays, 4:30 to 9:30PM; closed Mondays / Menus from $26, omakase $42
In 2003, New York-born French chef Claude Chassagne and his Japanese wife opened Chubo to harmonize French, Latin, and Asian cuisines. For example, he laboriously developed richly flavored sauce from stock made with shiitake mushrooms and kelp sent by his wife's parents in Tokyo. The woody interior creates a cozy atmosphere that enables guests to relax as if at home.
205 E. 45th St. / Tel. 212-867-4200
Open 12 to 2:30 PM, 5:30 to 10:30 PM (to 11 Thursday through Saturday) / Omakase from $45
Three highly pedigreed chefs at this sleek restaurant and sushi bar import seafood along with such ingredients as plum-flavored salt and ako-no-arashio (unrefined natural salt from the Ako region). Reflecting a smorgasbord of influences, they create seasonal specialties, authentic sushi, and novel dishes like nigiri-zushi with foie gras or Kobe beef, and stuffed shiitake tempura.
170 Mercer St. / Tel. 212-334-5253
Open 12 to 2:30 PM Wednesday through Saturday, dinner from 6 PM daily; closed Mondays
Owned by the same family that founded it three generations ago in Tokyo, this restaurant draws devotees for its cuisine based on noodles handmade with the finest ingredients. The New York branch opened in 1991 because proprietor Koichi Kobari felt it his mission to introduce authentic soba, a symbol of Japanese food culture not well understood. His are made daily in the teuchiba (room for hand-kneading) with only 10 percent wheat flour so guests can enjoy buckwheat's flavor and texture.
|Soba selections include the combination (left) with uni (sea urchin) for $20. Omakase (chef's selections from $50) brings threesome (center) of tofu, fried fish paste, cold soba. Kobari convinced even the most demanding critics, firmly replacing "buckwheat noodles" with "soba" on the U.S. culinary scene.
19 W. 52nd St. (666 5th Ave.) / Tel. 212-489-2525
Open 12 to 3 PM except Sunday, 5:30 to 10 PM daily / Lunch from $10, dinner from $35
Proprietor Nobuyoshi Kuraoka visited experts in Japan to achieve the quintessential taste of soba. After much trial and error, he harvests his own buckwheat, grown in Canada from Hokkaido seed, and kneads his soba every day. His original ni-hachi soba (80 percent buckwheat, 20 percent wheat flour) is chewy and sweet. Since opening in 1988, he has maintained unchanging quality.
229 E. 9th St. / Tel. 212-533-6966
Open daily, 12 to 4 PM, 5:30 to 10:30 PM (to 11 Fridays and Saturdays) / Menus from $26
After researching soba in Japan, Shuho Yagi chose to use the choicest stone-milled buckwheat ordered from Azumino. He kneads a total of 200 servings of soba every morning. His recipe for homemade soy-based kaeshi (dipping sauce) involves "resting" it for five days. These diligent preparations have not varied at all since he opened. Desserts are made by his wife.
12 E. 44th St. / Tel. 212-818-0715
Open 11:30 AM to 2 PM weekdays, 5:30 to 10 PM daily; closed Sunday / Lunch from $13, dinner from $80
Chikubu was originally a Kansai-style restaurant. It is now especially popular for the ramen-teishoku (Chinese noodle meal) served on Fridays and Saturdays. This features noodles ordered from Japan, barbecued pork simmered from Monday through Thursday, and homemade soup stock. Proprietor Juntaro Takagi has finally succeeded in creating the ramen noodles he himself had been longing for. At lunchtime on Fridays customers queue up for his carefully made, delicate ramen noodles. A wide variety of fish and shellfish are flown in twice each week from Japan, and dishes featuring kinki (a species of alfonsino, or bream) are a house specialty. This is an elegant restaurant with counter seating on the first floor and dining rooms on the second floor.
309 E. 83rd St. / Tel. 212-737-5656
Open 5:30 to 9:45 PM, closed Mondays / Dinner from $50
Since opening Donguri in 1983, proprietor Shuji Fujita has continuously offered high-quality original Japanese cuisine without allowing it to become Americanized. All foods served at the restaurantfrom the sashimi ordered from Tsukiji, Setouchi, and Fukuoka to the grilled codfish flavored with homemade yuzu (citrus) miso paste and dishes using special soup stock made from fresh bonito flakes and kelpremind one of Japanese traditional home cooking. All of the dishware is hand-made by his wife, Michiko. The red brick restaurant with 24 seats and a cozy atmosphere is always bustling with guests who admire fine quality in heart-warming Japanese home cooking.
210 E. 9th St. / Tel. 212-473-3327
Open 12 to 3 PM (1 to 4 weekends), 5:30 to 11:30 PM / Lunch from $15, dinner from $30
Offering authentic Japanese cuisine for 20 years, Hasaki has not changed its menus since opening. Dishes such as kinuta eel (grilled eel rolled with cucumber), ebi-shumai (steamed shrimp dumplings), and akadashi (red miso bean paste soup) have all been appreciated by well-traveled diners from the U.S. and abroad. Within the red brick building is a courtyard with wisteria trellis and stone lanterns, adding a charming ambience. Diners can enjoy their elegant meals on an open terrace. To secure these tables, arrive early or expect to wait.
113 Thompson St. / Tel. 212-925-8923
Open daily, 6 PM to 1 AM / Set menus from $50
This Kyoto-based noodle and á la carte restaurant, established in 1967, opened its New York branch in 1981 in a 110-year-old, red brick SoHo building remodeled with the essence of traditional Kyoto craftsmanship. The owners opened the original restaurant without a name, serving omen udon (nutritious white noodles cooked in an iron pot, a specialty of Gunma prefecture for more than 300 years); the dish's popularity supplied the name. Omen also serves many other regional Kyoto specialties. As mentioned about MATSURI, this restaurant takes a positive approach to reinventing traditional dishes with healthy, flavor-filled organic ingredients, renewing its menu with each season. On display is calligraphy done by the proprietor's father.
|Omen udon (left) is served in traditional style with vegetables and broth ($13.50). Desserts (center) include mango and blueberries with organic purple rice syrup ($7.50). Kyoto craftsbamboo blinds and lattice, paper lanterns and sliding doorswarm the interior.
300 E. 41st St. / Tel. 212-599-8888
Open 6 PM to 2:30 AM, closed Sundays / Multi-course omakase from $50
Since opening four years ago, this home-cooking restaurant without signboards or menus remains a hideout known only to discerning connoisseurs. The bill of fare offers only an omakase (chef's selection) course, which makes maximum use of seasonal ingredients. The 34-seat interior designed by the proprietor, Norihiko Manabe, conjures an ambience of a traditional Japanese koryori-ya (small eatery). Manabe orders his seafood directly from Tsukuji and Kyushu, and searches for vegetables in Chinatown. Because many midtown restaurants close much earlier, Tsukushi has a loyal following in professions that traditionally work late.
Articles from the 2004 SUMMER issue:
Kateigaho International Edition Issues:
2005 SUMMER - 2005 SPRING - 2005 WINTER
2004 AUTUMN - 2004 SUMMER - 2004 SPRING - 2004 WINTER
2003 AUTUMN - INAUGURAL ISSUE