Dieci is a restaurant in the East Village serving Japanese style Italian. Often times when one culture tries to adapt another culture’s cuisine to its own taste, the results are a disaster. However, Japan has been able to take other cuisines and create something is different yet still good. In particular, Japan is known for its French, Italian and Chinese cuisines. In fact, Japan has Michelin star restaurants in such cuisines. Dieci gives you a flavor for what this type of cuisine is.
The restaurant is a small room in the basement level. It’s intimate and the type of place you would bring a date. The service is always excellent and it’s an enjoyable place to have dinner.
Zuke Tuna Salad
This is sliced tuna with squash, snap pea and greens in a truffle soy dressing. The tuna and vegetables are good quality, but the dressing was a bit too sweet. It’s an alright dish, but I thought was a bit of an odd choice to put on the menu and didn’t really stand out. 7.5/10
This is small baked potato topped with uni. This sounds awesome although I found that the uni and potato didn’t really do much for each other. It’s well cooked, but it ends up just tasting like a creamy potato. 7.75/10
Chawanmushi is a savory Japanese egg custard that I grew up eating. However, the chawanmushi at Dieci is far more decadent than what I grew up eating. It has foie gras pureed into it, which gives it a much richer flavor. It’s topped with mushrooms, chives and savory broth. This is one of my favorite dishes here and I highly recommend ordering it. 8.5/10
Uni Egg Scramble
This is scrambled egg topped with uni and sturgeon caviar in a savory broth. This is another dish I really like here. The creaminess of the uni, saltiness of the caviar, the savory broth and egg really pair well together. This is a great dish. 8.5/10
This is roasted brussel sprouts topped with parmesan, miso and walnuts. It’s a pretty decent dish although I wouldn’t say it stands out. 7.75/10
This is fluke sashimi in a yuzu pepper and ceviche sauce. This dish works better than the zuke tuna salad. The sauce is not overpowering and goes well with the fluke. 8/10
This is squid ink tagliolini with calamari in a tomato sauce. The tagliolini is has great texture and is perfectly al dente. The tomato sauce compliments the tagliolini and calamari perfectly. This is another dish that I really enjoy at Dieci. 8.5/10
This is ramen noodles in a spicy lamb bolognese sauce. The noodles are al dente and bolognese sauce is hearty and goes well with the ramen. 8/10
This is fettuccine with sea urchin and calamari in a creamy sauce. The pasta, uni and calamari are good. However, I found the sauce a bit lacking in flavor. If the sauce was a bit more flavorful this dish could be a winner. 7.75/10
Filet Mignon Steak
This is a filet mignon steak topped with a truffle soy reduction and mushroom couscous. The steak is excellent and the sauce pairs perfectly with it. The mushroom couscous is a nice side dish to go with the steak. 8.25/10
Japanese Red Snapper Chazuke
Chazuke is a simple Japanese dish that I also grew up eating which is simply rice with tea poured over it and topped with seasoning. This is a more refined version with seared red snapper on top of grilled vegetable rice ball with hoji tea soup poured over it. The fish was perfectly cooked and went well with the rice and broth. This was a nice dish. 8/10
This was a special. It was a chocolate soufflé with earl grey ice cream. The dessert is pretty self-explanatory and was really good. If they happen to have this, definitely order it. 8.25/10
Overall, while not every dish is a hit, the dishes that are good are excellent and it’s become one of the restaurants that I regularly go to. I highly recommend checking it out.
228 E 10th Street
New York, NY 1003
Japanese curry is a homey and very satisfying meal for me. It reminds me of growing up as it was one of those things that I thought was so good when I younger. While curry is probably most associated with Indian cuisine, it is very popular in Japan. Curry Ya specializes in Japanese style curry, which is a mild brown curry usually served with a meat, white rice and pickled daikon.
The restaurant is a thin space with only counter space seating enough for maybe 12 people. Because the restaurant is so small, there can be waits at peak times particularly on the weekends.
Condiments are on the counter in front of each seat and consist of red pickled radish, pickled onions and toasted garlic. I highly recommend using all of the condiments as they go great with curry.
Berkshire Pork Katsu Curry
This was a deep fried pork cutlet with curry and rice. The batter was crispy and not oily although not quite as light as a really good version. The meat was nicely tender and decent quality. Overall, the pork cutlet itself was pretty good although not amazing. The curry is flavorful and quite good, definitely better than most other places in NY. 8/10
This curry has ground beef with chopped onions, carrots, celery, raisins, a hard-boiled egg and fried onions. The first picture has a deep fried croquette made of mashed potato and ground beef. The second and third pictures have a mini Berkshire pork katsu. The croquette was good and goes well with the dry curry. The dry curry is much thicker than the normal curry. It’s more heavily spiced with a stronger curry flavor than the regular curry. This is a nice change from the normal curry and tastes great with rice. 8/10
Homemade Hamburger Steak Curry
This is hamburger with curry. I like hamburger, but I generally prefer a fried item with curry, so while this is pretty good, I prefer the fried items and curry. 7.75/10
Baked Hamburger Curry
This curry rice baked in the oven in a cast iron skillet with cheese. You can change any of the dishes on the menu to the baked curry. While I generally prefer fried items with curry, we got the hamburger since this curry is heavier and we thought a fried item might be too heavy for this. This curry is heavier because of the cheese, but I found this really delicious and probably the best dish at Curry Ya. 8.25/10
I enjoy eating at Curry Ya and I eat here regularly. If you like Japanese curry then I’d definitely recommend trying it out as it’s the best version I’ve had in NY.
214 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003
Takahachi Bakery is a Japanese bakery that I discovered by accident this summer because it’s very close to where I get my haircut in Tribeca. Japanese bakeries have always been one of my favorite things since I was a kid. However, I’ve found the ones in NY to be somewhat mediocre, so I was very happy to find a good quality Japanese bakery.
The bakery is a long a narrow space with exposed brick walls and high ceilings. It has a large display case showcasing its goods and a small space in the back to sit and eat. The staff is nice and is pretty helpful.
Here’s what we got:
An pan is a baked red bean bun and is one of the most common pastries you see in Japanese bakeries. The version here is very good; the bread is soft and moist and the red bean filling has good consistency and is not too sweet. The ratio of filling to bread was also perfect. Overall, this is a solid version. 8.25/10
Mochi An Pan With Green Tea Powder:
This is the same as the regular an pan except with green tea powder on top, which gives it a slightly bitter green tea flavor and with mochi (rice dough) in the middle. The mochi makes the inside chewy. It’s pretty good, but I prefer the regular an pan over this. 7.75/10
Sourdough Green Tea An Pan:
This is an pan except they use a green tea flavor sourdough bun. I couldn’t really taste the green tea and just tasted like a sourdough bun although very light in flavor. It’s not as soft or fluffy as the regular bun with thicker and tougher exterior. It was alright, but I didn’t think it was anything special. 7.25/10
Sweet Cheese Bun:
This is a fluffy white bun filled with a sweet cheese filling and topped with powdered sugar. The bun is perfectly fluffy and soft and the cheese filling is really good. It’s slightly sour, but sweet and almost runny. This is excellent and one of the stars here. 8.5/10
Melon pan is the Japanese version of a Chinese bo lo bao (pineapple bun). I’m not sure who actually came up with it first, but I’m pretty sure it’s Chinese originally although I did read that either the Chinese got it from the Mexicans (pan dulce) or the Mexicans got it from the Chinese. Any which I love everyone’s version of this. It’s a baked white bun with no filling and a hard sugary top. The sugary top is really good and the bread is moist and fluffy. It’s simple, but really good. 8.5/10
Sweet Potato Cone:
This is a cone shaped pastry that is filled with sweet potato filling that has been spiced with cinnamon and has sesame seeds on top. It tastes exactly as it sounds and I love sweet potato so this was awesome for me. 8.25/10
This is just strawberry shortcake. The cake was moist and light and the frosting is the typical Asian style frosting that is very light. However, the frosting was a bit too sweet; I’d prefer if it was less sweet. I would’ve given a higher rating if it was less sweet. 7.25/10
Curry Beef Bun:
This is a baked bun filled with curry filling that has beef, potatoes and carrots in it and it’s topped with this savory herbal seasoning. The bun is soft and moist as all of Takahachi’s buns are. The curry filling is nicely flavored and the herbal powder seasoning on top is really good with the bun. It doesn’t look that great, but it’s really delicious. 8.25/10
This is my favorite thing here. It’s really light cheesecake that is just slightly sweet and a bit sour. I don’t know how to properly explain this, but it’s really good. 8.75/10
This is a twisty roll that has swirls of pumpkin paste in it. Again moist and soft and the bread goes perfectly with the pumpkin. This was very nice. 8/10
Overall, I like this bakery a lot and if you happen to be in the area definitely give it a try.
25 Murray St (between Broadway & Church St)
New York, NY 10007
Sushi Nakazawa was recently opened by Daisuke Nakazawa who is famous for being the apprentice in “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” who made tamagoyaki two thousand times before Jiro finally said it was good enough quality to be served to customers. Naturally before he even opened up there was a lot of buzz about him, how he compares to Jiro, how his experience in Seattle might have shaped him and many other permutations of that conversation. Well I’ve never been to Jiro (and neither have 99.9% of the people asking how it will compare), but I can tell you this he’s making some of the best sushi in NY right now and is solidly in the top tier sushi level with places like Sushi Yasuda and 15 East.
The restaurant is located in the West Village. The space is a long narrow space with a sushi bar upfront and tables in the back. The window facing the sidewalk is floor to ceiling and gives the restaurant a more open feel versus most sushi restaurants which feel enclosed. It is a beautiful space and I really like how it feels more casual than other sushi restaurants. The service was excellent and attentive. Daisuke Nakazawa is a very nice guy. While his English is not great he’s always smiling, laughing and is engaging with customers which is rare in NY.
We got the sushi omakase which is $150 for 21 pieces (a lot of people asked me about that).
I’m going to comment on the sushi rice here since it is a commonality amongst all the sushi. It was excellent and on par with Yasuda which has the best sushi rice in NY. The texture was great, perfectly al dente and the flavor of the vinegar was nice and not overpowering or too weak. The flavoring is a bit different than Yasuda, but it’s a tossup as to whose rice is better.
Another thing I’ll comment on is he uses way more locally caught seafood than other places and I’ve heard some complaints about that because of the price of the meal. My view is that the seafood was excellent and I don’t care where it’s from if it’s really good although I understand the price vs where the food is from argument, but I’ll let other argue over that.
Here’s what we had:
Wild King Salmon
This was from Alaska and was served with sea salt and yuzu. The meat was very light colored and quite delicate tasting. I thought the sea salt and yuzu really complimented it nicely. 8.5/10
Alaskan Sockeye Salmon
This had a slightly stronger salmon taste although again it was excellent. 8.25/10
This was from Maine and was live. They brought the whole shell out to show us before serving it to us. It was sweet and bit briny, a really standout scallop. 8.5/10
The searing gave the geoduck a very smoky flavor and the soy sauce complimented it nicely with some saltiness. While it was not super tender it also wasn’t tough like some geoduck. I thought it was good although not amazing. 7.75/10
This was from California and was steamed for 4 hours. This was good for abalone although abalone is not my favorite sushi as I find it a bit hard and not that flavorful. That said this was better than most abalone you get in the US as it wasn’t that tough. 7.75/10
This was from Japan. It was really great and was the best piece I’ve had in the US. 8.75/10
This was from Japan and pickled for 5 days. The pickling killed any fishy flavor and I thought it was a really nice tasting piece of mackerel. 8.25/10
This was from Long Island and served with liver. The fish was quite light tasting with a good firm texture. The liver was a nice touch as it gave the fish an extra bit slight liver flavor which made it a much fuller taste overall. 8/10
This was from Long Island and served with yuzu. This was a standard, but good piece of fluke. 8/10
This was from Long Island and it was quite tender actually. Squid itself does not have a ton of flavor, so the soy sauce is definitely necessary. 7.75/10
This was from New Caledonia and while I normally don’t like ebi all that much this was definitely the best piece I’ve had in the US. It had been recently cooked, so it was slightly warm. 8.25/10
This was from Japan and it was a really great piece of fish. Tender and just had great flavor. 8.5/10
This was from Japan and was smoked. It was nice with a very slight smokiness to it. 8.25/10
Blue Fin Tuna
This was wild caught from Boston. It was interesting because all of the tuna was from one fish from Boston which I’d never had tuna from Boston. I thought it was surprisingly good, nice tuna flavor with pretty good texture. It’s not like the best stuff I’ve had in Japan, but it was actually very nice. 8.25/10
Chutoro (Medium Fatty Tuna)
This was wild caught from Boston. It was nicely marbled and buttery. 8/10
Otoro (Tuna Belly)
This was wild caught from Boston. It was also nicely marbled and buttery. 8/10
Uni (Sea Urchin)
This was from Santa Barbara. I was a little worried because it looked bit weird, but once I took a bit it turned out to be excellent. It was sweet, briny and creamy. It was definitely a respectable piece of uni. 8.25/10
This was from Alaska. Wow this was a standout; this was by far the best ikura I’ve had in the US. It wasn’t fishy at all, nicely salty with just generally good flavor. 8.75/10
Anago (Conger Eel)
This was from Japan. It was a nice piece of anago with good texture not too mushy and the sweet sauce was not overwhelming. 8/10
This was a tuna handroll that had a bit of liver in it. While tuna handrolls are not my favorite, this was very good for a tuna handroll with a good ratio of fish to rice to nori. 8.25/10
Here is the infamous tamago from Jiro Dream’s Of Sushi. This was different than most as it’s the kind that is more of a cake as opposed to an omelette, so the texture is more spongy. It was fairly sweet and delicate tasting. I thought it was good although I think I prefer the traditional tamagoyaki more. 8/10
Overall, I really liked Nakazawa across the board. I thought the food was some of the best I’ve had in NY this year, the service and setting were great and Nakazawa was a really nice guy. I highly recommend coming here as soon as possible.
23 Commerce St (between S 7th Ave & Bedford St)
New York, NY 10014
Sakura-Ya is an old store opened in 1960 that specializes in Japanese confectionary called mochi and manju. They are old school still make all their mochi by hand and still owned by the same family. However, the original husband and wife I grew up seeing seem to have largely retired and younger generations of the family run it day to day. This is great news because I’ve actually been worried for years that it would shut down when the original owners retired, which would be a huge shame.
It’s located in an old strip of stores in Gardena. For a long time it looked like no one had renovated the exterior since 1960, but recently they re-did the store front and it looks much better. However, the interior has looked exactly the same for as long as I can remember. It’s a white room with display cases and a bit of decoration, but overall it’s pretty bare bones. The staff is mainly family and are extremely nice.
Starting from top left going clockwise: kuri manju, imo manju, ohagi, kinako green mochi, pink mochi, kinako green mochi (again), kashiwa mochi, kiku manju , white mochi and green mochi
Here’s what we got:
This manju has an exterior made of wheat flour and mashed chestnut filling. The exterior is quite thin and moist while the filling is sweet, smooth, doesn’t have a strong flavor and is a bit drier (although not in a bad way). It’s a simple pastry, but it’s good. 8/10
This manju has a similar exterior to the kuri manju, but is filled with mashed sweet potato. The sweet potato filling has been spiced with cinnamon, which gives it a fantastic flavor. This is one of my favorite items here. 8.5/10
Ohagi is a type of mochi that has red beans on the outside with a ball of glutinous rice in the middle. The beans have the casings giving it a nice textural contrast. It tastes exactly how it sounds and is one of my favorite mochi. 8.5/10
Kinako Green Mochi
These are mochi where the skins have yomogi (mugwort) in them giving them a green color and a certain flavor which is sort of hard to describe, but is quite light. The rice dough at Sakura-Ya is so good; it’s extremely soft and delicate, much more so than other stores. The red bean filling is perfect; not too sweet, smooth, but still has textural contrast from the red bean casing. It is also topped with kinako powder, which is a roasted soybean powder that gives it a slightly bitter flavor, which I enjoy a lot. 8.5/10
This mochi is pink because of food coloring. The skins are the same, so they’re amazing. The filing is mashed white bean, which is very smooth and sweet. It has a slightly more muted flavor than red bean, but is just as good. This is a must-order. 8.5/10
This type of mochi is wrapped in a leaf. The dough is much more gooey and sticky than the normal mochi and the leaf imparts a certain sort of herbal flavor to the dough. The filling is the same red bean filling. While this is still quite good, it’s not quite as good as the regular mochi. 8/10
This manju has a very thin open pancake made of wheat flour that is filled white mochi and red bean paste. It tastes just like it sounds and while it’s pretty good, it’s not my favorite overall. I found the rice dough to be not quite as soft and delicate as the rest and I prefer the straight dough with beans as opposed to the pancake. 7.5/10
This is straight forward rice dough with red bean paste. This is a really good one. 8.5/10
Same as the kinako green mochi without the kinako. This is another winner. 8.5/10
Overall, this place is great and it really stands out from the crowd. I highly suggest trying it out.
16134 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90247
Sakae Sushi is one of the three places I mentioned in my post on Mitsuru Café that I can remember going to for as long as I’ve been alive (the third place is Sakura-Ya) because all of them are older than I am. I’d feel like my blog is not complete until I’ve got a post on all three places.
The “restaurant” is not even a restaurant, but is rather a very small take-out place located right on Redondo Beach Blvd across the street from Pacific Square Shopping Center in Gardena. This is not the high end sushi that you find at say Mori or Zo rather I think of it as “comfort” sushi that you eat at home. They only makes 6 sushi items: nori maki, inari, ebi, saba, tamago yaki and California rolls. Here’s all of the sushi except California rolls because I don’t like them:
Inari is a fried tofu skin pouch that has been marinated in a semi-sweet sauce that I believe has mirin, sugar, soy sauce and dashi and filled with sushi rice. One note about all of their sushi is that the rice is rather sweet compared to most sushi places although I like it and it complements the sushi well. Normally you see these in the Japanese markets in their prepared food section, but those don’t taste nearly as good as Sakae; the rice is very fresh and the tofu skins are marinated just perfectly. 8.5/10
Tamago maki is a futomaki roll that instead of having nori (dried seaweed) as the outside layer instead it has thin layer of tamago (semi-sweet egg omelette) layer on the outside. It is filled with shiitake mushrooms, spinach, tamago, pickled kampyo and oboro (the pink sweet stuff). It’s fairly self-explanatory in flavor and the version here is very good. 8.25/10
This is the same as the tamago maki except the outside is nori instead of tamago and it will have a piece of tamago as part of the filling. This is also excellent. 8.25/10
Saba sushi is mackerel has been marinated in vinegar. My grandmother said that traditionally you were supposed to have white meat, a bit of dark meat and skin on each piece. This is the exactly how they do it at Sakae. I really like their version; the fish is just right and goes great with the rice. 8.25/10
Ebi Sushi (Cooked Shrimp)
I’m not a huge fan of ebi as I find it rather plain and that’s the same here although I will say it’s better than most since the shrimp tastes fresher. 7.25/10
1st pic (clockwise from top left): inari, saba, nori maki, tamago maki
2nd pic (clockwise from top left): ebi, nori maki, tamago yaki, inari
Overall, I really like this place and if you happen to be in Gardena do yourself a favor and pick some up for yourself. Also, if you happen to be going anywhere around New Years and want a large order be aware that you need to call weeks or a month in advance because they do sell out for the large orders.
1601 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Ste 112
Gardena, CA 90247
Mitsuru Café is one of three Japanese places that I can literally remember going to for as long as I’ve been alive; the other two being Sakae Sushi and Sakura-Ya in Gardena. All of these places serve very simple Japanese dishes that I love and fondly remember.
Mitsuru Café is a little café located in Japanese Village in Little Tokyo. While they have renovated the outside, the inside still looks like it’s from the 60s with old faded walls with specials taped on them, a counter with an open kitchen and old wooden tables. At the front window they have a griddle that cooks the imagawayaki as well as a display case showing a variety fried foods and other stuff such as dango. Its super old school and really brings you back. I rarely sit down and eat, but when I’m close to Downtown LA I almost always stop by and get some food for myself or to bring back to my family.
This is what you will see people waiting in line for. Imagawayaki is a pancake cooked in a griddle with red bean in the middle. More commonly you will see taiyaki which are the fish shaped ones. The key to a good imagawayaki are being fresh off the grill, good tasting batter and the right batter to bean ratio. Surprisingly, I’ve had a hard time finding a good one in Asia even in Tokyo and Taipei where they are very common. One of the three characteristics is always wrong; it’s a cheap snack and most of the vendors just don’t take them seriously. Mitsuru still makes the best one for me. They are really fresh, hot and slightly crispy, the batter is not too thick and has a really good flavor. The only knock is that the an (red bean paste) is a bit too sweet. I highly recommend trying these. 8.5/10
Ohagi are a type of mochi with red bean on the outside and a rice ball in the middle; definitely one of my favorite. The ones here are true home style and taste like the ones my family made when I was a kid. They’re pretty ugly, but the beans are really fresh and the rice balls are very nice as well. It’s a simple confectionery, but you’ll notice the difference versus the ones you buy in the super markets. 8.25/10
Daifuku / Yomogi / Black Sesame Daifuku:
These are also homemade. The daifuku are the standard white ones, the yomogi the green ones that use mugwort (one of my favorite) and the black sesame daifuku are the ones covered in black sesame. All of them have red bean in the middle. Even though these are homemade honestly they don’t taste much different than the major local brands like Mikawaya. They are still good, nicely fresh and taste just like they sound. While not exceptional like Sakura-Ya, they are quite good and worth eating if you happen to be buying other stuff. 7.75/10
Inari are a type of sushi that look like footballs. They are marinated tofu skins stuffed with sushi rice and sesame seeds. They are fresh and pretty decent although they’re not great like the ones at Sakae Sushi. Again these are good and worth checking out if you’re here, but not going to blow you away. 7.75/10
These are the sushi rolls that have tamago (sweet egg omelet), takuan (yellow radish pickle), this pink sweet stuff that looks like cotton candy and pickled gobo (burdock root). The ones here are pretty standard and while tasty not out of the ordinary. These are another one worth checking out if you’re here, but not worth going out of your way for. 7.75/10
Overall, if you want to try some great imagawayaki and homemade mochi, I’d highly recommend coming here because this is the type of stuff that one day you will not be able to find anymore. Also please note that they only carry the ohagi and mochi on the weekends.
117 Japanese Village Plz Mall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Yuji Ramen is run by Yuji Haraguhi and was originally a pop up at Smorgasburg. However, he has now set up a temporary pop up restaurant on the 2nd floor the Whole Foods on Bowery and is moving to a permanent space in Brooklyn after July. Besides being well known for having some very unique ramen, Yuji is also interesting because they do a ramen tasting menu, which unfortunately is completely booked out.
The space is just a long wooden counter on the 2nd floor of the Whole Foods, so there isn’t too much to say about the restaurant itself. It’s very casual and similar to going to a food court because you order at the register and then can either eat at the counter or one of the various tables on the 2nd floor.
Here’s what we got:
Bacon and Egg Mazemen:
Mazemen is a style of ramen that is basically ramen with very little or no soup; I believe it’s a fairly new concept from Japan (feel free to correct me on that). They use a thicker yellow egg noodle that is kind of like fettuccine. The noodles are excellent; they are perfectly al dente and have great texture. The toppings are a soft boiled egg, crispy pieces of bacon, dried bonito shavings and greens. There is also a light slightly sweet sauce that I believe is soy sauce based. It’s quite a flavor bomb between the bacon, bonito and sauce. It was pretty tasty although heavy and probably not something I would order very often. 7.75/10 (8.5/10 for the noodles, 7.5/10 for everything else)
Salmon Cheese Mazemen:
This mazemen has salmon cured with lemon zest and Sichuan peppercorn, nori (seaweed), greens, the same light sweet sauce and yes it has cheese on it! The cheese sauce is a mix of Camembert and heavy cream. The creamy sauce goes well with the noodles and salmon although it’s quite heavy. Overall, it was a bit more a novelty for me than something I’d probably order again although it was reasonably tasty. 7.5/10 (8.5/10 for the noodles, 7.25/10 for everything else)
Roasted Miso Vegetable Mazemen:
This mazemen has cauliflower, carrot and turnip in a barley-based miso sauce topped with shredded kale and seaweed. This one tastes exactly how it sounds and is definitely the lightest of the mazemen offerings. It’s not quite the flavor bomb that the other two are, but I probably liked this one the best because I could eat it on a more regular basis. 7.75/10
While everyone has been talking about the unique mazemen and the ramen tasting menu, the star for me has been the shoyu ramen. The broth and toppings change daily depending on available bones and trim from the Whole Foods meat and fish counters downstairs. The noodles are the thinner ramen noodles, which were nicely al dente and good quality. The broth was pork bone based; it was very nice and had a level of complexity that doesn’t just rely on a lot of salt and can only be done by teasing the flavor out of bones. They had smoked blue fish as the topping, which was nice and complemented the ramen nicely without overpowering it. I really liked the ramen here and it’s probably my favorite ramen in NY right now. 8.25/10
Overall, I really like the shoyu ramen here and the mazemen is definitely interesting. I look forward to trying to ramen tasting menu one day (probably once they open in Brooklyn).
95 E Houston St, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10002
Yopparai is a relatively new izakaya in the Lower East Side. My friend Silverjay on chowhound recommended it to me so I almost immediately tried it as I was missing good Japanese food after coming back from my Tokyo trip.
Izakaya are a style of Japanese restaurant where you drink beer / sake / sochu and eat various dishes to accompany those drinks. The dishes are generally somewhat smaller dishes and there is usually a large variety such as yakitori, oden, fried dishes, sashimi etc. They are extremely popular in Japan and have also become reasonably popular in NY as well.
The restaurant is located 1st floor up from the ground level inside an apartment building. Strangely you need to ring a doorbell to get into the restaurant. It’s laid out as is a long narrow space that is mainly a long counter with seats accompanied by small tables along the wall. You can watch them prepare the food if you are sitting at the counter, which I always like to do. While it’s small, it is comfortable and homey. The décor and vibe really make it feel like you’re in Tokyo. The owner and his wife are both extremely nice and helpful. The service is generally good although some of the younger servers can be somewhat forgetful.
Here’s what we got:
Homemade Masu Tofu:
This is a block of homemade tofu in a thick clear savory broth. The tofu has good consistency and is clean tasting. The broth is a bit savory and salty although not overly flavorful. It comes with grated ginger, shiso and bonito shavings which are always a great compliment to tofu. While this dish was not amazing, it was solidly good. 7.5/10
This is lightly roasted spicy marinated cod roe. I don’t usually order this because I find it somewhat off-putting if it’s not good quality. However, I had a feeling it would be good here and I was right. It had a nice toasty flavor from being very slightly charred and the eggs have this great briny flavor that tastes wonderful with beer. I also like the crunchy texture you get from the eggs. This was great and probably among the best I’ve had in NY. 8/10
These are grilled prawns served simply with salt and lemon. The prawns were fresh and the meat was sweet and cooked perfectly. I really enjoy prawns served simply with just salt and lemon which are the perfect compliment. These were great. 8/10
These are chicken meatballs and are probably my all-time favorite yakitori dish. They are tender and the charred flavor from being grilled coupled with the sweet soy sauce marinade is really great. They do a very nice job on these here and are the best version I’ve had in NY. 8.5/10
We got hamachi (yellowtail), shima aji (striped jack) and aji sashimi (spanish mackerel). I thought the sashimi was surprisingly good as I wasn’t expecting much; everything was all fresh and delicious. In particular the hamachi was quite good. 7.75/10
Natto are fermented beans. They are slimy and have a strong and somewhat bitter flavor. When I was a kid I couldn’t stand them. I only started to like them in maybe the last 5-7 years and now I am the only person in my family besides my grandma who likes them. The version here was good; it was served with bonita shavings, shiso and mustard. I like it best over hot rice, but the version here was still quite nice. I will warn you ahead of time if you’ve never had this prepare not to like it. 7.5/10
This was Washu beef tongue and was advertised as Sendai-style. Sendai is a port city in Japan that is probably now most famous for unfortunately being the epicenter of the tragic 2011 earthquake. On a happier note this beef tongue was wonderful. It was perfectly cooked; it was tender with a nice charred flavor from being grilled. It was served with lemon which was great contrast to the beef-y flavor of the tongue. It was also served with cabbage as well. 8.25/10
This was a special of Washu beef seasoned with just a little salt and pepper. You were given a skillet with a piece of fat which you melted and then cooked the beef in. This was wonderful and among the best dishes I’ve had here. The beef was very tender and had great flavor. This was a very simple, but excellent preparation. 8.5/10
This was tendon with tofu in brown gravy topped with diced green onions. While it looked and sounded delicious unfortunately it was one of the big duds here. The gravy and other ingredients were fine, but the beef was terrible; it was gristle-y and hard to bite through. I’m not sure what happened, but it was so gristle-y that it made it almost impossible to eat. 6/10
Ramen Style Pork Belly:
This was the other dud. It was pork belly served with menma (fermented bamboo shoots), kamaboko (type of processed fish cake) and green onions in a ramen like broth. Basically ramen without the ramen noodles. The broth was savory and fairly decent tasting and the other ingredients were good. However, I found the pork belly to be overcooked, so it was kind of dry. This was a good idea, but the execution was off. 6.75/10
This is a Japanese winter stew that consists of a light soy sauce dashi broth with various ingredients stewed in it. This has been one of my favorite home style Japanese dishes since I was a kid as my grandma used to make it. In these pictures I ordered black daikon (radish), satsuma age (fish cake), kuro tamago (boiled egg) and hanpen (fluffy fish and yam cake). The broth is nice; slightly sweet and salty although I prefer my broth a little lighter than the one here although this is still good. All of the oden was good and in particular the satsuma age and black daikon were particularly good. The one that I thought was a bit weaker was the kuro tamago as I found the egg a bit on the dry side. Overall though this is the best renditions I’ve had in NY. 8/10
This is anago (salt water eel aka conger eel) simmered in dashi broth with soft scrambled egg and mushrooms. I’ve always loved this dish. The eel and egg are nicely tender and are perfectly complimented by the sweet dashi broth. I will say the dashi broth is a tad too sweet, but I really like this dish with some rice. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the broth was slightly less sweet)
Jidori Tamago Toji:
This is the same dish except with chicken and onion instead of eel and mushroom. It’s also quite good. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the broth was slightly less sweet)
Yaki Onigiri (Soy Sauce):
Yaki onigiri are grilled rice balls with various filings that are very popular in Japan. This was brushed with Sekigahara soy sauce. I put up 2 pictures because in the 1st picture that is how they normally look, but 2nd time they were flatter and served with nori. I’m not sure if something got lost in translation in my order. Anyhow, these were pretty good, but as a personal preference I prefer regular onigiri. However, if you like yaki onigiri you will like these. 7.5/10
Yaki Onigiri (Red Miso):
Same as the other yaki onigiri except with red miso paste. 7.5/10
Beer and Sake:
The beer they serve here is really ice cold and is great with your dinner, so I’d definitely recommend getting a beer. They have a nice sake list as well and the owner is pretty knowledgeable (now this comes from someone who only knows a bit about sake, so take that with a grain of salt).
Overall, I really enjoy the food here and I definitely think it’s one of the best izakaya in NY and worth checking out.
151 Rivington St, 1st Fl (between Clinton St & Suffolk St)
New York, NY 10002
I previously wrote a post about Shabu Tatsu asking why shabu shabu is so difficult to find in NY? Since then I’ve been on a kick to go find it in Manhattan, so besides Shabu Tatsu, the other place that is known for it is Momokawa.
Momokawa is oddly located just off Curry Hill in a weird unmarked building where you have to go downstairs into a basement and then back upstairs into the small dining room which is above the street level. It used to be an all you can eat Japanese yakiniku place, but that place burned down and Momokawa opened up in its place.
Momokawa specializes in shabu shabu and sukiyaki much like Shabu Tatsu, but you will find a wider array of other mainly appetizer type dishes here as well.
The restaurant is tiny with enough space to probably fit about 20 people. The service is generally decent and everyone has been nice when I’ve been there. The crowd is mainly Japanese with random others thrown in as well.
Here’s what we got:
Homemade Tofu: This was nice clean tasting homemade tofu, nothing revolutionary, but solidly good. It tasted good with soy sauce and diced green onions. 7.75/10
Satsuma Age (Homemade Fish Cake): I really like homemade fish cake versus commercially made fish cake, the taste and texture is so much better. The version here is excellent. It’s got a soft, but slightly spongy texture and the fish cake is slightly sweet and having salty soy sauce compliments it really well. 8.5/10
Simmered Kabocha Squash: Japanese kabocha (winter squash) is awesome when made right. It’s usually steamed and then put in a light soy sauce. The kabocha should be soft and slightly sweet and the light soy sauce pairs with it perfectly. It’s simple, but for some reason most people can’t get it right. The version here was decent, but not excellent. It wasn’t quite soft enough and I’d prefer if they provided a little more sauce for flavor. 7.25/10
Edamame: Typical edamame, but they were cooked correctly and not overly salty. 8/10
Ginger Pork Rice Bowl: This was simple sautéed pork in a slightly sweet ginger sauce with diced green onions on top of rice. The pork was cooked well and the sauce was decent. I thought it was pretty decent although not amazing. 7.25/10
Miso Soup: Normal miso soup, nothing too different about it, but still tasty. 7.5/10
Pickled Cabbage: They gave pickled cabbage on the side, it was a salty pickle. It was pretty decent. 7.5/10
Gindara Saikyo (Miso Marinated Black Cod): I always like miso marinated black cod. The cod is tender and buttery and the slightly sweet miso paste compliments it nicely. The version here was cooked nicely. 8/10
Berkshire Pork Sukiyaki: Sukiyaki is a dish consisting of thinly sliced beef or pork which is slowly simmered with vegetables, tofu and glass noodles in a casserole in sauce / broth made up of soy sauce, sugar and mirin. The version in restaurants is a bit different than what I grew up at home eating. At home you put everything in the casserole and then eat it. However, in restaurants they put oil in a shallow skillet where you cook the raw meat and other ingredients in and then dip the meat in raw egg. They don’t put nearly as much sauce / broth in and I’d consider it more of a sauce as it’s more concentrated. While I like the version at home better, this is still very tasty and I’d recommend trying it. 8.25/10
Beef Shabu-Shabu: The version here basically tasted exactly the same as Shabu Tatsu, so I’m not going to re-write the whole thing, but you can read it here. (sesame sauce 7/10, ponzu sauce 8.25/10, vegetables and noodles 8/10, beef 8.25/10)
Overall, I think this is a pretty good and definitely underappreciated.
157 E 28th St (between Lexington Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10016
Shabu shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish where you take raw meat, vegetables and noodles and then cook them in a hot pot filled with boiling water and seasonings and then dip the meats and vegetables in various sauces. I’ve always wondered why shabu shabu wasn’t more popular in the city, it’s healthy, tastes great and none of the ingredients are particularly expensive unless you’re using really good beef.
In California, where I’m from, it’s pretty easy to find good and cheap shabu shabu places, but in NY I can only name a few. So when I was craving shabu shabu, I had to look up where to go. I finally decided on Shabu Tatsu since it was conveniently located and also garnered good reviews online. I’d been here once a long time ago, but I really don’t remember too much about it, so this was basically like going for the first time. To show how scarce the supply of shabu shabu restaurants is in NY, it’s basically impossible to come here without a reservation. The first time I tried to come here I made the mistake of not having a reservation, came at 5:45pm thinking that I would be fine since it was just me and my girlfriend and was told it was a 2 hour wait, so I left and ended up making a reservation a week in advance the next time.
Shabu-Tatsu actually specializes in four things: shabu shabu, sukiyaki (meats and vegetables cooked in a shallow hot pot in a sauce of soy sauce, mirin and sugar and then you dip everything in raw egg), yakiniku (Japanese version of Korean BBQ) and dol sot bi bim bap (claypot rice dishes). However, I feel like they are more known for their shabu shabu than their other offerings. While I always prefer restaurants to specialize in one thing if you think about it with the exception of the dol sot bi bim bap all of the dishes are fairly similar; they are do it yourself cooking using thinly sliced meats (mainly beef) and vegetables, so I don’t think it takes much to offer all of these dishes if you’re offering any one of them.
The restaurant looks pretty Japanese with white walls with lots of wood finishing. There is a circular grill in the middle that can be used to either put a hot pot in for shabu shabu or sukiyaki or to grill meat for yakiniku. The service was fine albeit a bit brisk as they seem to be busy trying to wait on all the tables. The clientele is mainly Asian with a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Korean with a few others in the mix.
On to the food:
Eel Bi Bim Bap:
This is rice in a sizzling clay pot. They offer various different toppings and I decided to order the unagi (freshwater eel). It was unagi on a bed of rice topped with unagi sauce, which is a thick sweet sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and sugar (I believe the real version uses eel bones as well). The server mixes the rice and the eel together in the clay pot and then puts it into small bowls for the table. The eel was tasty and the sauce was pretty decent, but the rice didn’t have enough crispy pieces as I really like the crispy rice from the bottom of the clay pot. 7.75/10
I’m going to break this down by sauces and ingredients.
Here’s a picture of the hot pot:
The sesame sauce is the typical thicker sesame sauce that is slightly sweet and tastes like sesame (think of the sesame noodles from your local Chinese take-out joint). Generally, the sesame sauce is not my favorite, but I use it to change it up a bit. 7/10
Ponzu sauce is a sauce made of soy sauce and ponzu. Ponzu is made up of mirin, rice vinegar, katsuoboshi flakes (dried fish), seaweed and some citrus fruits like yuzu or lemon. The sauce basically tastes like a citrus-y sour soy sauce. They give you a side of grated daikon (radish) and chopped scallions, which I liberally add to the ponzu sauce. This is my favorite sauce for Japanese shabu shabu as it makes everything taste good and I love adding the daikon and scallions to it. 8.25/10
Vegetables and Noodles:
There was cabbage, tofu, udon noodles, clear noodles, tofu, mushrooms, scallions and another green vegetable I couldn’t identify. Everything tasted fresh and good. 8/10
The beef was clean tasting and good quality. It tastes great with ponzu sauce and some white rice. 8.25/10
After you are done, they bring a cup that has salt and various other seasonings in it and you add the broth that you were cooking your meats and vegetables into it. The result is a pretty tasty soup. I liked the seasonings that they used here as it can be bland if the seasonings are too light, so I thought it was pretty good. 8/10
Overall, I found Shabu Tatsu to be a satisfying restaurant and I’m looking forward to going back to try their sukiyaki. If you’re looking for shabu shabu, I’d recommend trying it out.
216 E 10th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Misoya is a Japanese chain of ramen restaurants that is the latest addition to Manhattan’s growing number of ramen shops. Misoya specializes in miso ramen meaning that the broth is miso-based unlike other ramen places in the city such as Ippudo which specializes in tonkotsu broth (pork bone) and Setagaya which specializes in shio broth (salt). I believe their specialty is also supposed to be Hokkaido style ramen which is quite a bit different than most other ramen as the condiments consist of things like corn and a slice of butter among other things. I’ve only had Hokkaido ramen a few times, so I was quite interested to try it here.
The restaurant is located in the old Nori space right off Saint Marks. The space is a long narrow space with tables lined to the left and the right. The décor is fairly plain with wood panels on one side and a painted wall on the other. There is a TV where you can see the chefs preparing everything, which was kind of weird, but I guess if you’re paranoid about the chefs messing with your food know you’ll know what they’re doing.
The service was fine albeit a little disjointed as the waitresses seemed to have some trouble communicating with the chefs properly as our order was a little messed up, but they were nice about it and fixed everything. Also, unlike other ramen places when they first open it was very easy to walk in an get a table, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing, but it made my life a lot easier than waiting for an hour to get a table at Ippudo.
Here’s what we got:
Kome-Miso Ramen with Cha Shu:
This was the Hokkaido style ramen that used red miso. The condiments consisted of corn, salty minced pork sauce, cabbage, bean sprouts, diced scallions, menma (bamboo) and cha shu (roast pork). The broth was salty from the miso, but in a good way, it had a nice savory flavor and was rich because I believe they put a slice of butter into it. The noodles were good although I prefer mine a little more al dente, it wasn’t overcooked per se, but I just prefer ramen noodles to be a little more al dente. I actually really liked the corn as I thought the sweetness of it went well against the saltiness of the broth. The meat sauce was good although it was salty so I found it better to mix in with the corn against the soup broth. The cha shu was really the standout, this was much better than any of the other ramen houses’ cha shu. It was beautifully grilled where you could really taste the pork and the grill flavor. It had enough fat where it was very tender although not overly fatty. Overall, I thought this was quite good although it was definitely on the rich side. 8/10 (7.5/10 for the noodles, 7.75/10 for broth, 8.5/10 for the cha siu)
Spicy Shiro Miso Ramen:
My girlfriend got this one. Shiro miso is white miso. The condiments consisted of salty minced pork sauce, bean sprouts, diced scallions, menma (bamboo) and fried tofu. The broth tasted similar to mine actually, but it was spicier and was a little heavier in flavor. The noodles were the same. Overall, I thought this was similar to mine although I preferred mine as I liked the condiments better. 7.75/10
These were simple fried dumplings. They were pretty mediocre though, they honestly didn’t taste much different than the frozen kind you can get from the grocery store. They tasted fine and were freshly fried, but were definitely nothing to write home about. 6.75/10
Spicy Fried Rice:
This sounded good, so we decided to try it. Unfortunately, this was also mediocre. I believe it was made using only egg, oil, sesame oil and Korean gochujang (a sweet chili paste). It wasn’t spicy at all, it had decent flavor, but had no “wok hay”, which is the flavor you get some essentially smoking the rice in a very hot wok. Also, they used rice that was too fresh as the rice was too moist (you’re supposed to use day old rice as it cooks better). I wouldn’t order this again. 6.5/10
Overall, I enjoyed the ramen here and I definitely think it’s one of the better ramen places in the city. They need to do some work on their sides, but I’d definitely recommend trying it out.
129 Second Ave (Between 7th and 8th Street)
Manhattan, NY 10003
Sushiden has been around for a long time and I’ve been here before, but only for business dinners which don’t really allow you to fully enjoy the meal because you sit at a table not at the sushi bar and you end up ordering stuff to make sure everyone is okay with the food not what you would order on my own. However, even under those circumstances I remembered liking the food, so when my girlfriend and I decided to go see Cirque Du Soleil at Rockefeller Center, I decided it would be a good chance to try Sushiden again since it’s right next to Rockefeller (fyi, Sushiden has two locations on here and one on Madison).
The restaurant is fairly large with a sushi counter and small seating upfront and then a larger dining room in the back with some private dining rooms as well. The waitresses are dressed in kimonos and the sushi chefs in typical white chef’s gear with chef hats. The customer base was mainly Japanese and completely Japanese at the sushi bar. The service was good and attentive as to be expected at a good Japanese restaurant.
Here’s what we got:
This was from Japan. The fish was fresh and had a slight richness about it that was nice. For this piece the rice was served slightly warm and the chefs were discussing the rice for a while, so I believe the batch was slightly messed up b/c it was still too hot. They use a little more vinegar then I prefer, but the flavoring was still good. 7.75/10
Horse Mackerel (Aji):
This was from Japan. It was served with a little bit of minced scallions and horse radish. Horse mackerel is an oily and slightly fishy tasting fish. The version here was good. For this piece and the pieces to follow, the rice was normal temperature, so I’m pretty sure the rice was messed up on the first piece, the rice was much better when it was cooler. 8/10
This was from Japan. It’s a fairly simple white that is fairly lean. It had good texture and was mild in flavor. Overall, it was a good piece of fish. 7.75/10
Giant Sweet Shrimp:
This was from Canada. This was quite good, the shrimp was sweet and it had a good soft texture. 8.25/10
This was served with a little bit of minced scallions and horse radish. I believe skipjack is a type of tuna. It was a quite tender and mild flavored fish. 7.75/10
Fresh Octopus with Salt:
This was recommended by the chef as one of his favorites of the day. The octopus was excellent, it was very tender and the salt that was sprinkled on it really added an extra dimension to the flavor. This was very good and probably my overall favorite piece of sushi. 8.5/10
A nice piece of salmon that had good flavor and texture. 7.75/10
Medium Fatty Toro:
This was from Spain. It didn’t look all that pretty to be honest, but it tasted quite good. It was nicely fatty as toro always is and had a good rich flavor. 8/10
Grilled Octopus Suction Cups:
This was interesting as it was prepared on a skewer like a yakitori. The chef sprinkled a little bit of salt on it. It had a good grilled flavor to it and the octopus was still reasonably tender. 7.75/10
This was from Seattle. I’m not a fan of raw abalone as it is rather tasteless and somewhat hard. However, the version here was pretty decent as far as raw abalone goes although I’m still not a huge fan of it. 7.25/10
This was quite good; it had to nice richness from being an oily fish without having an overly fishy flavor that bad mackerel can have. 8.25/10
This was from San Diego. It was rich, creamy and still had like slightly briny seawater flavor that I love. 8.25/10
Chopped Toro with Takuan (Pickled Daikon):
This was a nice addition to the meal. The richness of the toro went well with the tartness of the takuan and the saltiness of the soy sauce. 8/10
This was served two ways, half with salt and half with the sweet eel sauce. The flavor was good and the meat was nicely tender. 8/10
This was a simple oyster served with a ponzu sauce with scallions. The oyster was fresh and pretty meaty and ponzu sauce is a great sauce for an oyster. 7.75/10
I liked Sushiden and the sushi is quite good although I don’t think it makes my list of top tier in NY, which I reserve for Yasuda, 15 East and Kuruma. However, it is in that solid 2nd tier of sushi restaurants in NY.
123 W 49th St (between 6th and 7th Avenue)
New York, NY 10020
Yuba is a new Japanese restaurant that opened in the East Village. I’d heard a little bit about it on eater.com, but not much else, which is sort of surprising given that one of the chefs is of Masa heritage. However, one of my friends wrote a quick review on his Facebook page that was talking about how good and creamy the Kumamoto oysters were. That piqued my interest and I decided to try it out on Sunday with my gf.
The two chefs-owners are George Ruan, who spent 5 years at Masa and Jack Wei. They occupy the spot that formerly housed the now defunct Korean restaurant Sura. While the restaurant is located in the East Village, which is generally busy, it happens to occupy a street that is fairly quiet and has little foot traffic. So perhaps that’s why I haven’t heard much about it.
Normally, I’d be skeptical about two Chinese guys manning an upscale Japanese restaurant, which is not meant to be a racist comment, but rather I’m generally skeptical whenever the given ethnicity is not preparing the food as I find people often don’t know what the food is supposed to taste like and that would go for any given ethnicity. However, given the backgrounds of the chefs, I was very curious how they would do.
The restaurant is small with a dining room laid out very cleanly and simply using mostly dark wood. We decided to sit at the sushi bar as I always prefer to eat my sushi at the bar because of the short half life of sushi. George mans the sushi bar, so we were able to speak to him extensively. He’s very nice and knowledgeable about the food he’s serving; you can tell he paid his dues at Masa.
The service was good and attentive. I was surprised how empty the place was although it was Sunday night and after eating there I was even more surprised at how a restaurant of this quality is not packed as I know many Japanese restaurants serving food a couple notches below this that are always packed.
Here’s what we ate:
Uni with Yuba:
This was a signature dish and also the namesake of the restaurant. Yuba is a tofu skin, but the way it is served here is much different than you’re probably imagining as it is silky, creamy and almost milky. It was served layered with uni from Santa Barbara and topped with freshly grated wasabi and tosazu sauce, which is a type of bonito infused vinegar. The combination of the creaminess of the uni and yuba was really good as the yuba doesn’t overpower the uni. The fresh grated wasabi and the tosazu sauce really flavor it nicely without overpowering the flavor of the uni and yuba. This was a great dish. 8.5/10
This was five Kumamoto oysters served with sturgeon caviar. Since they were served so simply you can really taste the oyster’s flavor and creaminess and the caviar really just adds a nice bit of salt of the dish. I really liked this although I think some people might be surprised that oysters have a certain amount of seafood flavor to them as most people don’t realize this because they tend to douse them in so much sauce they don’t actually know what they taste like. 8/10
Sweet Corn Tempura:
This was corn, maitake mushrooms and shiso leaf tempura. The corn kernels and diced maitake are mixed together and put on top of the shiso leaf and then fried. This was really nice, the sweetness of the corn and the crispyness of the shiso went really well together. It was perfectly fried and wasn’t oily at all. George said that in a month or so the corn will be in season and will really be sweet. I thought this was innovative and delicious. 8.5/10
Duck with Foie Gras:
This was like a Cantonese Peking duck bun as it was served in steamed white bun (mantou) with the duck meat, some type of very thinly sliced white vegetable, foie gras and topped with hoisin sauce. The major difference between this and a regular Cantonese Peking duck bun was that there were no spring onions or skin served and there was foie gras. The buttery foie gras complimented the dish well. The meat from the duck was nicely cooked and quite tender. I guess this was paying homage to their Chinese heritage as this is clearly not a Japanese dish, but it was good nonetheless. 8/10
Risotto with Uni:
This was uni (sea urchin) from Japan on a bed of risotto. The risotto was good, it had a good al dente texture and the savory flavor went very well with the creamy uni. The uni from Japan was a good pairing with the risotto as it’s not quite as creamy as the uni from CA and has a slightly stronger flavor and the risotto would have overpowered the uni from CA. You can get it with shaved truffles, but we decided that we didn’t want that. 8.25/10
This was salmon sushi from Scotland. This was a great piece of salmon; it was buttery with great flavor. The rice was good, it had a nice al dente texture, it wasn’t quite Yasuda level and I’d say they use very slightly more vinegar, but it was good quality sushi rice. I was really pleasantly surprised by this first piece because I had no idea how the sushi would be and this compared favorably to the better places in the city. 8.5/10
Shima aji is stripped jack. This was another very nice piece of fish, clean tasting, soft texture and delicious. 8/10
Kinmedai is golden eye snapper. This actually tasted similar to the shima aji for some reason, but it was another very nice piece of fish. 8/10
Tai is red snapper. Tai is a more mild tasting fish, but this was nice too. 7.75/10
This was needle fish. I once caught one of these in Costa Rica by accident and if I had known they tasted good I would’ve kept it! Oh well. This was surprisingly good with a nice clean flavor. 8.25/10
This was squid with salt and lemon zest. Ika is one of those hit or miss because if it’s not from a good quality sushi place then it’s plain and sort of rubbery. Luckily, it was very nice here, it had a tender, but firm texture and the salt and lemon zest are my favorite way to have ika. 8/10
This is giant clam. Mirugai is not my favorite sushi, but I will eat it at good places. It had good texture where it was firm, but tender enough (mirugai can be borderline hard if it’s not a good piece). This was a good piece of mirugai. 7.75/10
This was scallop served with salt. The scallop was really sweet and very tender. I thought this was an excellent scallop. 8.25/10
King Crab with Caviar:
This was pretty self-explanatory, but king crab sushi is not my favorite sushi as I feel like crab meat has a hard time standing on its own. The quality of the king crab and caviar was very good though. 7.5/10
This was sea urchin from Santa Barbara. It was creamy and briny and I love uni from Santa Barbara, so I almost always love this if its good quality. George said that it will be better in about a month or so when it’s a little more in season, but I thought it was delicious right now. 8.25/10
This was sea urchin from Japan. I like Japanese uni, but not as much as uni from Santa Barbara as I don’t find it quite as cream and briny. However, it was still very good. 8/10
Deep Sea Snapper:
George said this was a special fish and that we had to try this. I’ve never had it before and he said it’s reasonably difficult to get. This was probably the star of the night. It had great flavor and was sort of buttery, but had a good texture at the same time. The flavor was hard to describe, but I really liked this cut of fish. 8.5/10
Green Tea Millie Crepe:
George said that this is from a local Japanese bakery that makes this only for high end Japanese restaurants and it is not available retail. I’ve actually had this exact dessert before in NY at other good Japanese restaurants. Its paper thin layers of cake with a green tea mousse in-between them with green tea powder and whip cream on top. It’s my type of dessert as I love green tea flavor and it’s not too sweet. I thought it was delicious. 8/10
Overall, I was really impressed by Yuba. I thought the appetizers / cooked dishes were wonderfully prepared and were a bit different than the norm. I was particularly surprised at the quality of the sushi as it was up there with the better places in the city. I also liked that an upcoming young duo of chefs is manning this place as it’s nice to see someone young with a lot of potential creating great food. I highly recommend trying out Yuba.
105 E 9th St (between 3rd Ave & 4th Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Takashi is a new Japanese yakiniku restaurant in the West Village. Yakiniku is the Japanese version of Korean BBQ. It is quite similar to Korean BBQ, but generally I find that there tends to be more cuts of meat available at yakiniku restaurants and the marinade tends to be less heavy handed than at Korean BBQ restaurants, but overall you won’t notice huge differences at good places (fyi for comparison sake no place in Manhattan serves really good Korean BBQ).
Takashi specializes in beef and serves no other types of meat. Chef Takashi Inoue is a 3rd generation Korean who was born and raised in Osaka, Japan (Koreans are the largest minority in Japan). I watched an interview with him on their website and he stated that the meat must be very fresh and he takes a lot of time to do the prep work. It is always great to find a chef who takes the time to do things correctly (part of what I absolutely love about great Japanese restaurants). According to their website Takashi features beef from local New York state farms from of Dickson’s Farmstand in Chelsea Market, Kansas’ Creekstone Farm of Pat Lafrieda, and Oregon’s Washugyu cows of Japanese Premium Beef.
The restaurant is quite small with seven small tables with grills in the middle of them and a chef’s counter. The service was decent, but a little disorganized perhaps because it’s a new restaurant.
On to the food:
They start the meal off with a trio of a cabbage salad with a ginger ponzu sauce, bean sprouts marinated in sesame oil and crushed sesame and kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage). These were all decent, but not outstanding. I like the cabbage salad the best. 7/10
This is their version of a traditional Korean dish called yook hwe. It consists of thinly-sliced chuck eye tartare in a sauce that I believe had soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, garlic and perhaps a few other ingredients. The meat is topped with sesame seeds, shredded nori (dried BBQ’d seaweed), quail egg yolk and lemon. The sweet and saltiness of the sauce goes well with the beef. The beef is very good quality, so it has a great clean beef flavor. 7.75/10
This is minced raw chuck flap hand-rolled sushi. It looks just like any other sushi with the finely minced beef on top of a small rectangle of rice with sesame seeds and diced green onions sprinkled on top of it. They give you large sheets of nori (BBQ’d seaweed) that you wrap the sushi in and then dip it is soy sauce and wasabi. It was good, but because raw beef is a light in flavor and I felt that the beef was somewhat overpowered by the flavors of the nori and soy sauce. That said you can tell how high quality the beef is as it is really clean tasting. 7.5/10
I was very excited to try this because it looks so great. It is chuck flap topped with sea urchin and fresh wasabi on shiso leaf and nori (BBQ’d seaweed). You wrap it all up and then dip it in soy sauce and wasabi. This was very good, the creamy clean flavor of the uni combined with the shiso and nori is a great combination. Because raw beef by itself is fairly light in flavor it almost adds more texture as opposed to flavor, but it works well. 8.25/10
This was cow tongue marinated in sesame oil, salt, pepper and lemon. This was some of the better tongue I’ve ever had; I actually didn’t tell some people what it was since people tend to get squeamish around organ and other odd cuts of meat. Everyone thought this was really good and were even more surprised when I told them what it was. It was clean tasting and tender, it was perfect for the BBQ. 8.5/10
This was ribeye served simply with salt, pepper and lemon. It was a beautiful cut of meat with such nice marbling. This was simple, but really good once it was BBQ’d. It was very tender and had beautiful flavor. 8.75/10
This was heart marinated in sesame oil, salt, pepper and lemon. I think most people have some misconception of heart as they’ve never tried it. Heart is a muscle and because it is so lean it can actually be somewhat firm to tough depending on whether you cooked it correctly; I think a lot of people think it’s going to be some really weird tasting meat, but that is far from the case. It is light in flavor and has no gaminess or other odd flavor to it. The heart here was really well done. Firm, but tender enough at the same time and really great flavor after it is BBQ’d. I haven’t had hear t this good in a long time. 8.75/10
This was the meat between the ribs. It was marinated in the Takashi sauce, which was more similar to typical Korean BBQ marinade. The meat is fatty, so it is very tender and flavorful. They serve it with a light semi-sweet soy sauce that was great because while it had a good flavor it did not overpower the meat, so you could still taste the meat and not just the sauce. Overall, I liked it, but it didn’t show case the quality of the beef quite as well as some of the other cuts although it was still very good. 8/10 (it is the meat on the left side of the plate in the picture)
This was the outside skirt steak. This was a nice cut of meat marinated in the Takashi sauce. The meat has enough fat that made it quite tender and flavorful, but wasn’t overly fatty so it had a good balance. This was perfect for grilling. 8.5/10 (it is the meat on the right side of the plate in the picture)
This was a special that night and was marinated in the Takashi sauce. It was quite fatty, but I like fatty meats, so it hit the spot for me. 8.5/10 (it is the meat on the left side of the plate in the picture)
This was short rib that was really beautifully marbled, probably the prettiest piece of kalbi I’ve ever seen. It was marinated in the Takashi sauce. I don’t know what to say about it other than it was really good. 8.75/10 (it is the meat on the right side of the plate in the picture)
I was really surprised at the quality of the meat here, everything was really great. I think this is one of the better meals I’ve had in NY in a quite a while. I want to come back to try more of their offal dishes as I just didn’t have enough stomach room to try anymore. I highly recommend coming here as soon as you can.
456 Hudson St (between Morton St & Barrow St)
New York, NY 10014
For some reason I feel like soba and Soba Koh get no love. When people talk about Japanese food in New York they always talk about sushi and ramen. Although these dishes more than deserved to be talked about, there is a lot more to Japanese food. Soba as a dish certainly deserves more praise as does Soba Koh.
Soba is one of those dishes that I didn’t fully appreciate when I was a kid, but as I grew up I really started to like soba and now it’s something I eat fairly regularly. Lucky for me, New York has opened up some pretty decent soba specialists such as Soba Koh and Cocoron, I’ve yet to make it to Soba Totto or 15 East (although I’ve been to 15 East many times just not for soba), but those are on my list.
The restaurant is clean looking with exposed brick walls, dark wood floors and tables. If you walk in at the right time the head chef will be hand making the soba in a small glass room at the front of the restaurant. The service is always good.
On to the food:
Tamagoyaki is a sweet Japanese omelet that is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. I was obsessed with tamago when I was a kid and I think I still am. The version here is quite good, the sweet egg-y flavor is great and the texture is just right, fluffy and moist, but not too moist. They serve it with minced daikon and soy sauce. You put the daikon on top of the tamagoyaki and dip it in the soy sauce. I’m not sure everyone will love this as much as I do because I just really like tamagoyaki, but I think everyone would at least find it good. 7.75/10
Flash Fried Shishito Pepper:
Shishito peppers have a great flavor that is really conducive to being flash fried and salt gives it an extra bit of flavor that really takes it up a notch. The version at Soba Koh is not the best version I’ve ever had, but it is a decent version and is a nice start to the meal. 7/10
They always have specials that are changing, this was one of them. It was anago (sea eel) with the typical sweet thick eel sauce. It wasn’t bad, but I had eaten at Yasuda about a week before, so it just paled in comparison to the best eel in the city. 6.5/10
This was the same as the anago, it was decent, but having Yasuda a week before just raises the bar. 6.5/10
This is pretty interesting. It’s a tofu made from buckwheat (soba). It’s a very light and has a nice buckwheat flavor. It’s served with wasabi, shredded shiso leaf and soy sauce. It’s not going to blow your socks off, but it’s pretty decent. 6.75/10
Natto Cold Soba:
The soba at Soba Koh has a great texture where it is soft, but still has a slight chew. The buckwheat flavor is simple and great. This soba is actually a special soba that uses buckwheat from Canada, which is why the color is quite a bit darker than the other soba you’ll see. It is served with natto (fermented beans), diced green onion, minced daikon, wasabi and a soy sauce based dipping sauce. I dump the diced green onion, minced daikon and wasabi into the dipping sauce then take some soba dip it into the sauce and put some natto on it. This was great for me, but I will warn people that natto is an acquired taste as it’s got a strong fermented flavor and it’s slimy. 7.5/10
Uni Ikura Cold Soba:
This is my favorite dish at Soba Koh; cold soba in a bowl with uni (sea urchin), ikura (salmon eggs), wasabi, nori (roasted seaweed) and shiso leaf. A light soy based broth is served on the side. The combo of the ingredients is wonderful. I highly recommend this dish. 7.75/10
Tempura Hot Soba:
My gf always orders this dish. Hot soba is very different from cold soba as the soba has a totally different texture. The broth is a nice soy sauce based broth that has yuzu in it, which gives it a citrus-y flavor. They make some of the better tempura in the city, it’s not overly breaded or oily and the batter doesn’t slip off the shrimp and vegetables the way bad tempura does. I recommend dipping the tempura in only as you eat it. I find that the oil from the tempura gives the broth a nice flavor, but if you dump it all in then the tempura gets all soggy. 7/10
Anago Tempura Cold Soba:
This is simply soba, anago (sea eel) tempura and the dipping sauce. Simple, but everything is good. 7.5/10
Overall, I really like Soba Koh and I’d highly recommend coming here.
309 E 5th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
Japanese izakaya-style restaurants (居酒屋) are casual places where you go to drink and eat, so the food is sort of comfort drinking food. They are usually fairly fun places with a lively atmosphere and pretty decent food.
Kasadela is an izakaya in the East Village / Alphabet City. They have a fairly standard menu of izakaya dishes. I like going to these types of restaurants with friends as they are a great place to have drinks and hang out with your friends.
The restaurant is pretty dark (it was hard for me to take good pics!) with two rooms, the first room has a bar and the second room has all the tables. The walls are exposed brick with the specials listed on the walls. It’s a nice and fun environment. The service was prompt, but our waiter was a little annoying as she was trying to jam 7 of us into 3 tables that were really small even though the restaurant was half full, but after putting our foot down about it then gave us another table.
Here’s what we got:
This was their homemade sesame custard. Normally tofu is made out of soy beans, but goma tofu is made of sesame and it’s much creamier and denser than normal tofu. Generally, I really like this dish, but there is a big difference between a good one and a mediocre one. The version here is just okay if you go to a place like Donguri who makes it very good you will notice the difference. It was too dense and the flavor while creamy doesn’t match a good version. I don’t think I’d order this again. 6.25/10
Shishito peppers are a type of Japanese green pepper; they are fairly mild in terms of being spicy and have a great flavor. Typically they are flash fried are charred and then sprinkled with salt. The version here is good although not as good as a really good version, but they were still quite tasty. I love the charred flavor with the salt. 7.25/10
Kakuni is pork belly. This is stewed pork belly in a broth of soy sauce, sugar and mirin I believe and then topped with sliced scallions. I liked the broth, the light soy flavor and the sweetness complimented pork belly well. The pork belly was flavorful, but was not as tender as it should be. If they got that right, it would’ve been really good. 7/10
This was simply grilled sausage with mustard. These were pretty simple, but fairly tasty. 7/10
This was stewed Japanese pumpkin. Japanese pumpkin done right is something that I really like a lot. The version here was served in a very light broth that had a nice flavor. The pumpkin was good, but wasn’t quite as tender as it should be, but overall it was a nice dish. 7/10
This is broiled Japanese eggplant smeared with den miso paste and sesame seeds. Den miso paste is fairly sweet, some people like it and some don’t, but I’m the type of person who does like it. The eggplant was cooked well, so it was quite tender and went well with the den miso paste. Overall, this was a good dish. 7.5/10
These are Japanese style fried chicken wings and are the house specialty. They are marinated in a semi-sweet soy glaze. They are beautifully crispy on the outside and the meat is tender. They are sort of like Korean fried chicken, but less sweet. Overall, these are very good, definitely the dish to come here for. 8.25/10
I love Japanese potato croquette, when I’m at home my mom makes these all the time. They are mashed potatoes mixed with minced ground beef covered in panko and then fried. They are served with katsu sauce. The version here was decent, but I think they over-fried them a little bit if they hadn’t done that they would’ve been good. 6.75/10
I was a little skeptical of this as it’s a Korean dish and I’m generally not much of a fan of the Japanese versions of Korean dishes as I generally find them too toned down. This was stir-fried kimchi and thinly sliced pork belly. It was surprisingly quite good. The kimchi and pork tasted excellent together and the pork belly was tender. I’d definitely order it again. 7.5/10
This was grilled tofu bricks served with soy sauce, minced ginger and chopped scallions. These are pretty self-explanatory and were pretty good. 7/10
Takoyaki are ball-shaped dumplings made of batter with a small piece of octopus in the middle that are covered with a sauce and green laver (a type of seaweed). I had low expectations because most of them are pretty bad at the NY Japanese izakayas. However, they were pretty good here. The batter was nice, the octopus was tender and the sauce was good. I liked this dish and I’d order it again. 7.25/10
This is grilled eel over rice in a sweet soy based sauce. Unagi donburi is one of my all time favorite dishes. I wanted some rice so I ordered this. It wasn’t amazing, but it was surprisingly decent as my expectations were quite low because this is not usually the type of dish you order at an izakaya. The eel was reasonably tender and the sauce was pretty good. 7/10
This is a Korean kimchi pancake. This was the one bad dish of the night, the pancake was mushy and oily and just not good. Don’t order this. 5.5/10
Rock Shrimp Tempura:
This was fried battered shrimp with a creamy spicy sauce. It was okay, but I think it had been left sitting around before it was served to us because the batter was a bit soggy from sitting around. The batter was also a little thicker than I prefer. Overall, it was just okay. 6.5/10
Rock Shrimp Donburi:
This was a pretty standard donburi. Its rock shrimp, egg, scallion and onion simmered together in a light sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and sugar, they then sprinkle shredded nori (dried bbq’d seaweed) over it. It’s pretty self-explanatory and it was pretty decent. 7/10
Overall, the food was pretty decent, there were some hits and misses, but I’d come back for the wings alone. It is also a pretty fun place to have drinks with friends. I’d recommend stopping by here with some friends.
647 E 11th St (between Avenue B & Avenue C)
New York, NY 10009
It seems like almost every culture has its’ own version of Chinese food. Wafu Chuka 味風中華 is Japan’s version of Chinese food and to my knowledge Saburi is New York’s only Wafu Chuka restaurant. While I’m generally not much of a fan of fusion food and I don’t really like American-Chinese food, for some reason I do like certain Japanese-Chinese, Korean-Chinese and Indian-Chinese food, so I was glad to find this place. I’ve actually been going here quite a bit because it’s close to my girlfriend’s apartment. At this point, I’ve probably tried around 60-70% for the menu, but this post is going to be about some of their better dishes.
The head chef and owner’s name is Jun Cui. He trained under Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in Japan and I believe he is ethnically Chinese. I haven’t met him, but some of the chefs are definitely ethnic Chinese who lived in Japan as I’ve heard them come out and speak to people in unaccented Mandarin and then turn around and talk to their staff in unaccented Japanese (quite impressive).
The restaurant is clean and has decent ambiance, but nothing to write home about. It has off-white walls with pictures of shadow puppets on the walls as the chef is a practitioner of this dying art and if you look around you’ll find a picture of Jun Cui and Chen Kenichi on the wall when they were both much younger. They also have a bar with various sakes, Chinese liquors and some very strong liquor that they infuse with various interesting things (herbs, berries and even snake).
On to the food:
This is probably my overall favorite dish here. The dish consists of sliced fried chicken over a bed of a salad with a light ponzu-type of sauce that has a lot of minced daikon in it. The chicken is beautifully fried, crispy on the outside, not oily or heavy at all. The sauce and salad complement it perfectly. This is definitely a must get dish here. 8/10
This is always on their special menu. It consists of diced pidan (Chinese preserved egg) over a very soft creamy tofu with a salty sesame oil sauce. I like this dish quite a bit as well. The pidan’s creamy flavor with the tofu and the saltiness of the sesame oil sauce complement each other really well. Another dish I definitely recommend getting here. 7.75/10
Ban Ban Chicken:
This is a cold sliced chicken dish in a thick sesame sauce. The chicken is surprisingly still quite tender and the sesame sauce is thick and flavorful. If you like thicker sesame sauces then you will like this dish. I think it’s pretty good although my GF is less of a fan of it. 6.75/10
Chahan is fried rice and when done correctly, I think Japanese fried rice rivals any good Chinese fried rice. The wok flavor in Japanese fried rice is exceptional. Here they serve it with roasted pork and various diced vegetables with some pickled ginger on top. While it’s not the best version I’ve had, it’s certainly quite tasty and much better than most versions you get in NY. I highly recommend asking for some chili oil as I find that kicks it up a notch. 7.5/10
This is an egg omelet with crabmeat, mushrooms and some other vegetables in a light brown oyster sauce. It’s a light dish that goes really well with the fried rice as the flavors are quite subtle. You can taste the oyster sauce flavor but it is very light. 7.25/10
Overall, I like Saburi and there are some good dishes to be had here. However, you have to be careful as some of their dishes are not very good in particular I’d avoid their ramen. That said it’s definitely worth trying if you’re in the neighborhood or looking to try something new.
168 Lexington Ave. (between 30th St & 31st St)
New York, NY 10016
**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**
I’ve been reading about Niko for some time as it has a bunch of well known people attached to it such as Hiro Sawatari who was formerly one of the top sushi chefs from Sushi Yasuda and Cobi Levy from defunct Charles. I was pretty excited to try it since I’m always looking for new good sushi places and Yasuda is my favorite sushi place in the city.
The restaurant is located on the second floor in the space that formerly housed the now defunct Honmura An (RIP, Honmura An was my favorite soba spot in the city). The décor is fairly minimalist with partially exposed brick walls. The front end is the table area and the back area is the bar and the sushi bar. It’s definitely got a bit of a hipper vibe than most sushi places as they have some music playing and the crowd is definitely a little more downtown chic.
I read on yelp about service problems, but our service was pretty good. Our waiters did seem a little over stretched, but that’s likely growing pains from just opening. Cobi came by and talked to us for a while and he was a nice guy.
We sat at the sushi bar in front of Nobu who is the 2nd sushi chef. He was an extremely nice guy who just moved here from LA. We talked to him quite a bit and he previously worked at Mori Sushi, which is arguably the best sushi place in LA. He met Hiro eating at Morimoto’s in Philadelphia when he was visiting a friend and that’s how he ended up working here.
Anyhow, onto the food:
Tokyo Fried Chicken:
This was just chicken karaage. However, I thought this was quite good. The chicken was tender and flavorful, wasn’t overly oily and the batter was nicely seasoned. It was served with a vinegar sauce and a sort of light sweet honey mustard, both sauces were good, but I preferred the vinegar sauce. I like simple fried foods prepared correctly, so this was right up my alley. 8/10
This was from Japan. This was a good clean tasting piece of yellowtail, I liked it. 7.5/10
This was from North Carolina. Fluke isn’t my favorite cut of fish, but this was clean tasting and good as well. 7.5/10
Big Eyed Tuna:
This was interesting as it was from Ecuador and I’ve never had tuna from Ecuador. The meat was a bit firmer than most big eyed tuna I’ve had, but it had good flavor and tasted fresh. 7.5/10
This was from Japan. This was excellent, it had the nice oily-ness that good mackerel has, wasn’t overly fishy and had great flavor, one of my favorite pieces of the night. 8.25/10
This was from Japan. This was interesting as I haven’t had sea bream that many times. It was a nice piece of fish that was pretty mild flavored. 7.5/10
Sweet Potato Roll:
This was interesting. It was a thin handroll with fried Japanese sweet potato, shiso and one other green vegetable which I’m forgetting right now. It was fried nicely and everything was fresh, but I wasn’t crazy about the combo of shiso and sweet potato. 6.75/10
Blue Fin Toro:
This was from Japan. This was excellent, another one of the best pieces of the night. The texture was “melt in your mouth” and the flavor was great. This was as good as any of the top sushi places in NY. 8.25/10
I like artic char a lot and it was good here. Good clean flavors and nice texture. 7.75/10
This was a nice piece of shima aji (striped jack). Surprisingly flavorful, I should’ve asked where it was from. 7.75/10
This was mashed umezuke (a type of pickled plum-like fruit) with shiso. I’m partial to ume because I grew up eating it, but I’m not sure how most people would feel about it as it’s fairly sour tasting, but it was good with the shiso. This was not a typical sushi dish, but I liked it nonetheless. 7.5/10
The ikura (salmon eggs) were nice and this was pretty standard, but good. 7.5/10
This was from North Carolina. I liked this cut. It was very clean tasting and good texture. 7.75/10
This was from Japan. Unagi is fresh water eel, which is among my favorite sushi. Because of Hiro’s Yasuda heritage I was hoping this would be good. It was prepared simply with just some sea salt, which I like because you can taste the natural sweetness of the meat if it’s a good piece of eel. This piece was good, the eel had good texture and great flavor not quite as good as Yasuda’s but definitely some of the better unagi I’ve had in the city. 8/10
This was the same thing, but prepared with sauce. This was also good although I thought the piece with just salt was better. 7.5/10
Overall, I thought the food was very good. I think Nobu said that they’d be getting other varieties of fish soon, so that would be nice. Hopefully, they can fix some of the service problems that I read about on yelp as it’d be a shame if a place serving good food got taken down by service problems. I’d like to sit in front of Hiro next time to see how he is as well. I’d recommend trying this place out.
170 Mercer St (between Prince St & Houston St)
Manhattan, NY 10012
I really like living in the LES and the food scene has been getting better and better, but for some reason there is basically no good Japanese places in the LES. The East Village is the closest place you can get decent Japanese food. However, that just changed with the opening of Cocoron. I noticed it about a month ago when I was walking around the neighborhood and decided to stop in. Since then I’ve been there three times as I like it a lot.
Cocoron specializes in soba (buckwheat noodles), but their soba is not traditional soba in the sense that they tend to have different preparations such a natto soba and curry soba. They make their own soba noodles and I believe home make everything they serve.
It is a tiny place with a counter that can probably sit 10 people and there are maybe three 2 seat tables along the wall. It is an open kitchen and you see them make everything. The staff is very nice and the service is very good.
Here’s what I’ve tried:
Sticky Rice Chicken Meatballs:
These are a special on the chalkboard. It’s chicken meatballs that are covered in glutinous rice and then steamed. It’s served with soy sauce. The meatball is very good, it’s tender and flavorful and the sticky rice gives it amazing texture. These are really good. 8.5/10
Tamago Yaki (Egg Omelette):
I didn’t love their version here as I prefer my tamago yaki to be slightly sweet and this wasn’t sweet at all, so I thought it just tasted like an omelette with daikon and soy sauce. 6.75/10
This was excellent. It was freshly fried so the skin was nice and crispy. The meat was very tender and flavorful. It tasted great when you squeezed some lemon over it. 8/10
This was the first time I’ve ever had this. Okara is the insoluble parts of the soybean which remain in the filter sack when pureed soybeans are filtered in the production of soy milk. The waiter looked at me sort of weird when I ordered it, so I figured it might be kind of funky which it was. It’s got a very odd flavor that I wasn’t a fan of. It tastes a little sweet, but tastes like something that had been left in the refrigerator too long; I don’t really know how to describe it well because it doesn’t really taste like anything I’ve ever had before. It’s not something I would order again. 5.5/10
Chicken Meatball Soba:
This was another special on the chalkboard. The soba is served cold on the side and there is a small hot pot that has chicken broth, chicken and sliced green onions in it. You take the soba noodles and put them in the hot pot for a second and then put them in a separate bowl with some of the broth in it to eat. The chicken is tender and the broth is very flavorful with a strong chicken flavor and it is slightly sour. The quality of the soba is excellent; it has great al dente texture and tastes very good. This was a good dish. 8/10
Natto are fermented soy beans. They have a fairly strong flavor and are somewhat slimy. The only person in my family who likes natto is my grandmother. When I was younger I couldn’t stand it as I’ve gotten older I can eat it now, but there are only handful of places that I will order it from. I don’t even really like Natto that much, but I like this dish a lot. The natto here isn’t that strong and I think it goes really well with the soba noodles. It’s served with natto, wasabi, takuan (a yellow pickled radish), diced cucumber, diced spring onion, a soft boiled egg, some white root and tsuyu which is a sauce made of a mixture of dashi (broth), sweetened soy sauce and mirin (rice wine). You put the egg, wasabi and spring onions in the bowl and then dump the tsuyu over it. It turns out really good. At the end, they give you a broth made from the water they make the soba in to pour into the bowl, it’s very refreshing. 8/10 (I forgot to take the picture before I mixed it up, so it looks a lot nicer when they first give it to you)
This is served hot with grated daikon, seaweed and some greens. The broth is good; its slightly tangy and tastes like the typical hot soba broth. Pretty self-explanatory dish, but it was good. 8/10
This is a buckwheat tea, it is really good. I highly recommend getting this. 8.5/10
Yomogi is mugwart, which is basically a weed. It’s got a pretty mild flavor that it sort of hard to describe. Mochi is rice dough and they put in finely minced yomogi into it giving the mochi its green color (normally mochi is white). They put the mochi into a pan, heat it up, cut it up, cover the mochi in kinako powder (roasted soy bean powder) and sprinkle sweet crushed nuts over it. They home make their mochi so it is very soft and has good texture. I liked this a lot, but it’s very Japanese and not very sweet, so I’m not sure whether most people would like this as much as I did. 8/10
Black Sesame Cheesecake:
We were hoping this would be Japanese cheesecake, but it was basically just regular cheesecake although it was fairly light for cheesecake. It tasted like black sesame, but was fairly light in black sesame flavor. It was pretty good though overall. 7.75/10
Overall, I really like this place. While Soba Koh is my go to soba joint for more traditional soba, Cocoron is my new neighborhood place and I really enjoy their high quality soba noodles and their interesting preparations. I highly recommend.
61 Delancey St (between Eldridge St & Allen St)
New York, NY 10002
Food Gallery 32 is located on 32nd Street in the middle of Koreatown in a space that used to be a bank. It was supposed to open in the summer, but it finally just opened very recently.
It looks similar to what a lot of food courts in malls in Asia look like and it has a mix of Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese food. There are 3 floors, the 1st floor has all the actual stalls and up front there is a single cash register area where you order your food and they give you a buzzer that buzzes when your food is ready. The seating is located on the 2nd floor and the 3rd floor. It also looks like the 3rd floor is going to have a crepe / drink place and Red Mango is moving from their current location into the 1st floor. Everything is brand new and very clean.
Here’s a list of the places:
- Boon Sik Zip: serves boon shik food which is basically Korean street food
- Pastel: serves Japanese food like katsu, curry rice, omelette rice etc.
- O-de-ppang: serves Japanese food such as donburi, teppanyaki, onigiri
- Bian Dang: serves Taiwanese food, it’s the guys from the NYC Cravings truck. Bian Dang means lunchbox in Chinese
- Big Bowl: serves ramen and various Korean noodle dishes
- Hanok: serves more regular Korean food with various chigae, bokum dishes etc
- Jin Jja Roo: serves Korean-Chinese food
Here’s what I’ve tried so far:
Soon Dae (Korean Blood Sausage):
This was from Boon Sik Zip. Soon dae is a Korean blood sausage that is filled with rice which you dip in some seasoned salt. Soon dae is a pretty popular dish and I like it a lot when it’s done right. Unfortunately, I think the one here might have been frozen before because it was sort of dry and the flavor wasn’t that great. 6.5/10
This was from Boon Sik Zip. I don’t know why I always order this at Korean boon shik places because it’s usually been sitting around too long and the batter is always too thick, but I made that mistake again. The squid itself was fine and it was freshly fried, but the batter was too thick and oily. 6.25/10
Odeng (Fish Cake Soup):
This was from Boon Sik Zip. The soup itself wasn’t bad, it was fairly light and not overly salty. The fish cakes themselves were decent although I think they were a frozen kind based on the texture which was too soft, homemade fish cake have a much firmer texture and more flavor. It was decent though. 6.75/10
Beef Kim Bap:
This was from Boon Sik Zip. This was pretty decent, the flavoring was good and the ingredients tasted good. The rice was fine as well. The beef was a little dry, but aside from that it was pretty decent. 7/10
Jja Jang Myun (Noodles in Brown Sauce):
This was from Jin Jja Roo. This is one of the staple Korean-Chinese dishes and its noodles in a dark sauce that has a lot of onions and pieces of pork in it. The noodles were fine and were reasonably al dente, however the sauce was a bit bland, so I thought it was just so so overall. 6.5/10
Kkan Poong Gi (Fried Chicken in Spicy Garlic Sauce):
This was from Jin Jja Roo. This is another typical Korean-Chinese dish. This was much better than the jja jang myun. The chicken was fried well and was nice and crispy. The sauce was a bit tangy and more spicy than usual which I liked. I think Hyo Dong Gak’s version is better, but this was pretty good and better than Shanghai Mong down the street. 7.5/10
This is from Pastel. I’m not sure why it was called “Hambak Steak”, but its hamburger covered in gravy with rice. You find this at a lot of Japanese places. The hamburger meat itself was cooked decently and wasn’t dry. The gravy was a bit tangy and sweet, I’d prefer it less sweet though. Overall, it was pretty decent. 7.25/10
Pork Chop Over Rice:
This is from Bian Dang. This is a very typical dish in Taiwan and its’ called pai gu fan in Chinese. It is a fried pork chop over rice that has a stewed pork belly sauce and pickled vegetables on it. The pork chop was cooked nicely and was tender. However, it didn’t have nearly enough five spice powder in it, so it was a bit under flavored. The meat sauce had decent flavor, but was too salty. The pickled vegetable was decent. Overall, it has potential, but they need to work on the seasoning a bit if they changed it a little bit I think they’d have a pretty decent product. 6.75/10
Zong Zi (Chinese Tamale):
This was from Bian Dang, they gave it to me for free as an opening promotion. It contained glutinous rice, peanuts, dried shrimp, pork, Chinese sausage, green beans, raddish and mushrooms. The filling was good, but the rice was a little too mushy, if they steamed it correctly it would be pretty good. 6.75/10
Overall, it’s sort of a mixed bag as some of the food I tried was pretty decent and other dishes were mediocre. However, it is very cheap and quite convenient. I plan on coming back and trying more dishes to find out what else might be good.
11 W. 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001
When I read that Yasuda was leaving his namesake restaurant Sushi Yasuda to go back to Japan, I immediately picked up the phone and made a reservation in front of him because I knew if I didn’t do right then it’d end up being impossible to make a reservation in front of him. Luckily I did because a week later I tried to make a 2nd reservation and he was completely booked for the next month.
Sushi Yasuda has been my “go to” sushi place in New York for many years. The quality of the seafood is always outstanding (in particular their eel is by far the best in NY) and they definitely haves the best rice in NY.
Yasuda told me he is going back to Japan because his daughter will go to high school soon and they had to decide whether she would go to high school here or in Japan; he is 52 and he either needs to leave now or go when he is 57 and he decided he’d rather go now. He plans on opening a small 8 seat sushi bar in Tokyo (forgot what district), but that is up in the air as of now as it’s hard to find a good space and it’s possible he may end up working for someone else. He also said at this point in his career he just wants to perfect his craft and he needs to go to Japan to compete and learn at the highest level of competition.
Here’s what we got:
Fugu Kara-age (Fried Blowfish Appetizer):
This was listed as one of their special appetizers. It was perfectly fried pieces of blow fish with pickled grated daikon and scallions. It was excellent, the batter was light, the fish meat was very tender and clean tasting. 8.25/10
They gave you this as a start to the meal. It was just a nice combo of slightly sweet pickled cucumber, seaweed and diced carrot. 7.75/10
Big Eyed Toro (Tuna Belly):
This was a nice way to start the meal off with a bang, this was one of best pieces of big eyed toro I’ve had in a while. So buttery and delicious, it was a beautifully marbled piece of fish. 9/10
Uni (Sea Urchin):
This was from Santa Barbara. Very clean tasting, creamy and a little bit briny. Really good. 8.25/10
Blue Fin Toro (Tuna Belly):
This was also excellent, fatty although not quite as fatty as the big eyed toro and a beautiful piece of fish although it wasn’t quite as good as the big eyed toro. 8/10
Ebi (Cooked Shrimp):
I’m not the biggest fan of cooked ebi, but the version here was really nice and I loved the rock salt and squeeze of lemon on it. 8/10
Anago (Conger Eel):
Eel is one of my favorite Japanese foods and Yasuda really just blows the competition in NY out of the water. The eel has such good texture and the meat is almost slightly sweet, I love the simple preparation of just being broiled with a dash of rock salt. 8.5/10
This was from Kyushu. Nice tender meat and a good flavor. 7.75/10
I like Spanish mackerel a lot and the cut here was very nice and had a good clean taste. 8.25/10
A nice piece of fish although butterfish is a fairly plain tasting fish. 7.75/10
This was a really nice piece of salmon, very clean tasting. 8/10
I really liked the wild salmon, it was interesting that it really did taste different than the farm salmon and since they gave them to us at the same time you were able to really compare. 8.5/10
Crab sushi is not one of my favorite sushi because it generally ends up being sort of bland. That said the version here was nice as the crab meat was quite sweet. 7.75/10
This was a great piece of mackerel and also one of the cleanest and least “fishy” tasting pieces of mackerel I’ve ever had. 8.25/10
Anago (Conger Eel):
I had to get another piece because it was so good. 8.5/10
Unagi / Shirayaki:
This is always one of my favorite things at Yasuda and it was so good again. The quality of the meat and flavor is just so much better than everywhere else in NY. 8.5/10
Unfortunately they didn’t have Peace Passage oyster which is what I normally get. However, this oyster was still quite good, I love the rock salt and lemon on it. 8/10
Big Eyed Toro:
I had to get another piece because it was so good. 9/10
Sentiment aside, I think this was the best meal I’ve had at Sushi Yasuda and my GF agreed with me. Also fyi, they are not closing. Mitsuru Tamura is going to be head sushi chef, I’ve eaten in front of him several times and he is excellent. I’m sad Yasuda is leaving, but everything must come to an end. This is one of my favorite restaurants in NY and I really hope they are able to maintain the high standard of food that I have come to enjoy.
204 E 43rd St
New York, NY 10017
Sushi Azabu is a strange place as it is located in the basement of the Greenwich Grill, both of which are owned by the same people. Greenwich Grill is an Italian restaurant, but has a Japanese twist since it is owned by Japanese people. They are located on a very quiet and residential part of Greenwich Street in Tribeca. It feels odd when you walk in because you have to walk through Greenwich Grill, which is a modern, but nice looking restaurant, down a dark staircase which takes you into a dark basement. The sushi bar is located in the basement. The sushi bar has a nice minimalist light wood exterior with a long banner at the back with a fish logo on it. There are also 3 or 4 booths to sit in as well.
I’ve been coming here as a 3rd option to my go to sushi places of Yasuda and 15 East when I decide to switch it up. There are always two sushi chefs, both of whom are quite nice, but their English is not very good. The service is attentive and nice, but they sometimes stumble over each other as they have microphone headsets and message to one another, but I think a lot of things get lost in that system as there are too many waiters.
This time we got the omakase because a friend was in town. I normally get the sushi dinner as it is the roughly the equivalent of the sushi omakase at Yasuda and 15 East. However, I think the omakase was a mistake because it was too much food and I prefer more sushi as opposed to getting a lot of non-sushi dishes which they give you. I also brought someone with very little “real” sushi eating experience (think spicy tuna roll type experience) and I think I scared the crap out of him because a lot of it was not plain jane tuna type of stuff, I may have forever turned him off to sushi…oh well.
Renkon (Lotus Root):
This was sliced renkon that had been cooked in a sauce that had soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine) in it. This was excellent; the sweetness of the sauce went really well with the renkon that was perfectly cooked. The renkon still had a bit of crisp to it, but was not overcooked either. 8.25/10
Kaki (Giant Oyster):
This was kaki from Washington State. This is one of the largest oysters I’ve ever seen. It’s actually cut into 10 pieces when you get it because it is so big. It’s covered in ponzu sauce with minced pickled daikon and scallions on top. I thought it was pretty good, but I think some people would be turned off by it since I don’t think a lot of people know what oysters actually taste like because they douse them with cocktail or other types of sauces. Even the best oysters have a certain seafood flavor to them that I find a lot of Americans tend to not like and bigger oysters like these tend to have a bit of a stronger flavor to them. I ended up eating my friend’s because he was too scared to eat it. That said these are good and clean tasting, but not amazing. 7/10
The sashimi plate consisted of Aji (Horse Mackerel) from Japan, Otoro (fattiest part of the tuna belly), Buri (Japanese Amberjack) from Japan and Mirugai (Geoduck). Otoro: very buttery and good. 8/10; Aji: I love horse mackerel and it was good here, for those who don’t know horse mackerel is much less fishy than regular mackerel. 8/10; Buri: I didn’t love the buri, it had a decent flavor though. 7/10; Mirugai: I don’t love mirugai as I find it a bit on the bland side. 7/10
Uni (Sea Urchin):
This was uni from Maine. This was excellent, clean and briny flavor. You could really taste the flavor as it was served plain; I ended up eating my friend’s because he was too scared to eat it. 8/10
Cooked Buri (Japanese Amberjack):
This was really good, it was cooked buri in a light soy sauce that I believe may have had some mirin in it because it was slightly sweet topped with scallions and grated daikon. The buri tasted pretty buttery and it was just a really good dish. 8.25/10
Chawan Mushi (Savory Egg Custard):
This is a savory egg custard with shrimp, mushroom, edamame (soy bean) and chicken in it. The version here was pretty good. 7.75/10
Salmon With Cucumber:
This was cooked salmon with ikura (salmon egg) and a cucumber puree over it. It was pretty good, but not amazing. 7.25/10
Otoro (Fattiest Part of the Tuna Belly):
This was otoro from Carolina (not sure which one). This was very good, super buttery and tender. The sushi rice is also quite good here. 8.25/10
Shima Aji (Horse Mackerel):
This was from Japan. It was a good clean tasting piece of fish. 7.75/10
Katsuo (Skipjack Tuna):
This was from Japan. This was topped with a little horse radish and scallion. It was a bit fishier tasting, but in a good way. 7.75/10
Botan Ebi (Sweet Shrimp):
This was pretty good, the shrimp was sweet and tasted very fresh. 7.75/10
Sanma (Pacific Saury):
This was very good, it was topped with horse radish and scallions. The fish had an excellent flavor. 8/10
This was surprisingly good tako, I don’t really like tako sushi generally because it’s pretty bland tasting, but the texture here was excellent as it was quite tender. 8/10
The chef knew I like uni sushi so I got another round of the uni from Maine. 8/10
Ikura (Salmon Eggs):
Pretty standard, but good quality ikura. 7.75/10
Anago (Sea Eel):
Anago is conger eel, the version here is good, but not nearly as good as Yasuda. 7.75/10
Kampyo is a type of gourd that I believe has been pickled. It’s fairly sweet, it was good here, but it almost always tastes the same anywhere where it is made reasonably fresh. 7.5/10
Kani Miso Soup (Crab Miso Soup):
I didn’t like the version here that much, the soup was fine, but I don’t think it was nearly as good as the version at Nippon in midtown. 7/10
Overall, I liked it, but I’d stick with just getting the sushi dinner as opposed to the omakase as the omakase is too much food and I prefer their sushi to their non-sushi dishes. I would recommend coming here though for sushi.
428 Greenwich St
New York, NY 10013