Category Archives: Japanese

Zest Sushi

Weird name, great happy hour.

Zest Sushi has a very extensive menu of items for just $5.50 during happy hour, which also includes their beer and sake offerings as well. My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff, and pretty much everything was great. Here’s the run down:

Mini salmon don.

“Salmon Dream” torched sashimi.

Skewers of crispy squid tentacles.

Crispy oysters (this was the only item I wouldn’t get again).

Takoyaki (fried balls of octopus with bonito).

Crispy salmon skin roll.

For drinks, the better bet is to get the sake. They give you about 10oz for $5.50, and it’s pretty good.

ZEST SUSHI
249 Broome St
New York, NY 10002

Gouie

This new sushi counter at Essex Market / The Market Line offers a fairly reasonable sushi dinner that consists of 8 pieces, a hand roll, ikura with rice and uni with rice – all for $85.

I usually love hand rolls, but I didn’t really enjoy this one. I think it was a mix of the Japanese pickle and a too thick/chewy seaweed wrapper.

The sushi pieces were great though, as was the ride. But the real star of the show was this salad that we ordered as a special. It was basically sashimi with some nice veggies.

Pass on the cauliflower, crab, uni and okra cold “soup” that they have on special as well. It was slimy and not soup-like at all. It also needed seasoning.

The light cocktails are a hit. There’s no hard liquor, but they’re made with apertifs, liqueurs and digestifs.

GOUIE
115 Delancey St.
New York, NY 10002

Chef Katsu Brooklyn

This place is great. Some of the guys from the NYC Zooz Club and I hit this spot after riding around for a bit. Their curry sauce covered fried chicken thigh sandwiches are amazing.

I got mine with cheese. It was perfect, and the fries were bangin’ too.

Get over here and try this place. I’ll definitely be back for sure. Also, if you want to see some video of our bike gang ride from the day, check out the below:

CHEF KATSU BROOKLYN
143 Greene Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Essex Pearl

This place is incredible!

My wife and I have been dying to come here ever since we saw them setting up shop at Market Line soon after we moved in. It’s a beautiful seafood bar, done up really fancy as a place you’d love to just sit and have a cocktail, but also with open view to the kitchen and prep stations for all the delicious food.

We tried a lot of shit, so let me get right into it.

Raw littleneck clams topped with crispy shallots and a fish sauce mignonette. Perfect way to open up the meal. Pair this with their pickled ginger, shochu and gin martini.

Dry aged rib eye tartare, coarse cut. So tender and flavorful! The shrimp chips make for a perfect vehicle for mouth entry, and they add a great textural crunch.

Cumin lamb belly skewers. I really loved these. If you love cumin lamb noodles at places like Xian Famous, you need to try this. It’s LAMB BACON!

Tiger prawns. You’ll want to drink the sauce! This item was the whole reason my wife wanted to go, and it really delivered. It was her favorite dish (along with the hamachi collar).

Crispy baby octopus with Thai lemongrass curry and fried Thai basil. Ask for a small bowl of rice so none of that curry goes to waste!

The grilled pork jowls were next. This was probably my favorite of the meal. It comes with a lime pepper sauce that acts like a Carolina style vinegar BBQ sauce, almost, but Asian style as lime and pepper are common in places like Vietnam and Cambodia. It cuts the fat of the jowls so perfectly I can’t even describe it properly!

Turmeric dill hamachi collar. This is so delicious and large, it’s enough to share among two people. Light, flavorful, and amazingly aromatic.

Laotian ginger pork sausage over garlic noodles. WOW! The sausage is made in house and it’s so fucking good!

We washed it all down with this watermelon and lychee slushee. So refreshing and just the right amount of natural sweetness.

I can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu, especially their surf and turf!

ESSEX PEARL
88 Essex Street
Cellar Level
New York, NY 10002

Omakase Room by Mitsu

Last night I took my wife to Omakase Room by Mitsu. This was a 12 piece sushi omakase featuring some of the best pieces I’ve ever had. Some of our stand out favorites:

Fatty Tuna Cheek (I ordered a second of this!)

Hokkaido Uni

Temaki Hand Roll (this was a pre-course)

Blackthroat Seaperch, Cherry Blossom Seabream, and Splendid Alfonsino

There was even a sort of “dessert” piece: a rolled omelette. This was sweet, but not overpowering.

I can’t wait to go back here when the menu changes in a few months. This was our favorite omakase so far.

OMAKASE ROOM BY MITSU
14 Christopher Street
Ground Floor
New York, NY 10014

Koko Ramen and Manchego

This joint has two names and serves two types of cuisine: Manchego serves tapas, and Koko serves ramen. My wife and I tried a couple of items from each menu.

TAPAS

The octopus was awesome. Perfectly cooked, nicely seasoned.

The calamari was meh. A little dried out.

RAMEN

The ramen was pretty good. Not among the top tier, but good enough that if I was ever in the area again, I’d go back to try the tonkotsu. The main reason I tried their spicy chicken miso ramen was because the menu said their tonkotsu was also chicken based broth, but with char siu pork in it. I was confused, and didn’t feel like asking questions since the service was crazy slow (they were slammed).

The salmon ramen was light. It was a shio style chicken based broth.

MANCHEGO / KOKO RAMEN
375 Marlborough Rd
Brooklyn, NY 11226

Kumi

Kumi is a new Japanese joint at Le Meridien hotel in midtown. The place definitely rocks some Korean influence as well, as the head chef there, Anastacia Song (formerly at American Cut, midtown), is Korean.

They have a great cocktail list. I loved this riff on an old fashioned called Kumi Forever:

We tried a bunch of sushi-esque starters, like the tuna and truffle pizza and some unique rolls. That pizza and the bagel and lox roll were probably the winners here, but they were all great.

The warm sides/starters, Brussels sprouts and mozzarella eggplant, were both satisfying as well, despite being vegetables.

I actually, oddly, loved this Szechuan silken tofu starter. Probably because I love that flavor profile, as well as mushrooms. The tofu is really just a delivery vehicle for the sauce.

For entrees, we tried the miso black cod, the tea infused chicken, and the gochujang braised short rib.

The short rib was by far the winning dish here. Such deep, warm, fulfilling flavors. And lots of saffron!

For dessert, we tried the pear tart and the milk tea cake. The cake was the better item here, especially if you’re into creampie videos.

I look forward to going back here again to try some lobster and steak.

They also have a secret menu for late night eats. Burger, chicken sandwich and tofu sandwich.

KUMI
120 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019

Kissaki

I took my wife to Kissaki for her birthday since she likes omakase restaurants. This place did a great job. We went with their 13-course tasting menu, swapping out sashimi for nigiri on the sushi pieces, and we also shared a sake pairing (four generous pours that progressed through the meal).

My favorite items were the Santa Barbara uni, the thin sliced squid, the Japanese barracuda, and the Spanish mackerel.

I’m no omakase expert, but this place seemed to deliver very good quality at a great starting price point of $120 (for the nigiri – add $60 for the sashimi).

My only gripe: they should offer a combo of both nigiri and sashimi, since some of the nigiri sushi looked really interesting with wild toppings and flavors, while the sashimi pieces were more traditional and plain. A mixed piece menu would be a great way to get a taste of both modern and traditional.

KISSAKI BOWERY
319 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

Kaiseki Room by Yamada

This new Kaiseki tasting is available on 53rd Street at 6 1/2 Avenue, just across from La Grande Boucherie. It’s a small stretch of bar with two seatings each night, at 5pm and 8pm, for $300 each (more for sake the pairing). I took my wife here for a Christmas present/date night and we both loved it. Here’s everything we had:

Olive fed wagyu tartare with caviar:

Uni truffle and foie dashi:

Assorted sashimi:

Hand roll sushi (our favorite bite):

Here are some of the mushrooms coming up in the next courses:

Lobster and crab miso bisque:

This plate had five cold glasses that featured octopus, abalone, and other raw fish preparations:

Eel and tilefish:

Duck and winter mushrooms:

Rice with crab, roe and squid:

Bean ice cream and granita:

Freshly whipped matcha:

This is definitely worth splurging on for a special occasion. I’m interested to see how the hyper-seasonal menu will change throughout the year.

KAISEKI ROOM BY YAMADA
145 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

Esora Omakase

I was recently invited to try a new Wagyu and tempura Omakase restaurant connected to J-Spec in the East Village, called Esora.

This was one of the most incredible Omakase experiences I’ve had. We started with a trio of appetizers: wagyu tartare + uni, scallop + caviar, and tofu.

All were excellent, but the wagyu tartare and uni was possibly the best bite of the night!

Next up was sashimi. More wagyu strip, as well as sea bream and blue fin tuna.

Wagyu sushi? YUP! We got a taste of both Hida and Ozaki strip here. Torched (Ozaki), and raw (Hida).

The tempura portion of the meal was so much fun, and the bites seemed to just keep coming!

Prawn heads (and bodies):

Okra:

Magochi fish:

Maitake mushroom!

Tenderloin wrapped in shiso leaf. Awesome!

Corn:

Scallop:

Squash blossom and Japanese pumpkin:

Sea Eel:

And finally, sweet potato:

We washed that down with a really tasty seafood and mushroom soup, served in a nice tea kettle with citrus (dobinmushi).

Next, we had STEAK! Wagyu strip from Hida:

…and from the Ozaki family brand:

Check this out!

I liked the Ozaki a bit better:

There was also sea bream rice with ikura:

And finally, dessert: earl grey tea panna cotta, roasted green tea, and peach compote.

I highly recommend this place. Make sure to call ahead at least 24hrs before booking. There are only seven seats at the bar with the chef, and there are a limited number of seatings each day.

ESORA OMAKASE
239 E 5th St
New York, NY 10003