Category Archives: Japanese

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

Ishikawa

My wife told me about this joint that just opened their second location on the upper west side. I took her here for an early surprise Valentine’s Day dinner, since she has to travel on the actual date.

Everything we had here was incredible, and at a price point of $155 for the premium omakase, you really get a ton of high quality pieces. I think there were almost 20. Below are a few of my favorites.

Of course, the one that involved wagyu and foie gras was awesome:

These two with highly marbled tuna belly were great.

This was also awesome; three different kinds of eggs:

I can’t wait to go back!

ISHIKAWA
207 W 80th St
New York, NY 10024

Kaikagetsu

I recently experienced a really delicious tasting menu at Kaikagetsu in the lower east side that featured some rare and delicious Hida beef from Japan. Not too many places are serving this stuff. Here’s how it went down:

We started with a small plate of assorted bites, each of which was more delicious than the last. Bluefin tuna marinated in ponzu sauce with chopped yam; minced chicken matsukaze with sesame seeds; cooked yam jelly with spicy soy; Brussels sprouts with salmon roe; and baked chestnuts.

This was paired with a really nice cloudy and bubbly cold sake.

Next up was a sashimi course that had some really awesome bluefin tuna, Kanpachi amberjack and Yagara cornetfish.

This was paired with another really nice sake, seen here:

Our third course was a mushroom, seafood and chicken soup served in a tea pot.

This next course was delicious. Super fresh and creamy uni served atop a tempura fried sheet of nori, with a fried taro potato ball.

Now for the beef, which was paired with a whisky and soda lowball.

First was a hot stone preparation of thinly sliced Hida beef shank, with onions, scallions and mushrooms.

This was great. It came with ponzu sauce, which wasn’t really needed, and a really unique smoked charcoal/ash salt. Killer.

Next up was a trio of beef sushi: one with caviar, one with orange, and one on a nori wrapper that was topped with uni.

Mine were all awesome, but a few other people at my table had some chewy beef. I guess they got some not-so-tender pieces of shank.

Finally, there was an array of individual bite-sized desserts (we each got five) along with some delicious, peppery herbal tea.

What a meal! I would definitely go back, especially because that Hida beef is so special. Give it a shot. They also have a really nice bar with unique spirits.

KAIKAGETSU
162 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Once again David Chang pretty much disappoints. I understand and respect that he did a lot to expose certain aspects of Asian cuisine to folks here in NYC (and beyond), but I just don’t get why so many people are riding his dick so hard. The food just isn’t that good. Maybe it’s because he, himself, is not actually cooking? Not sure. But he gets doted on like crazy from places like Eater and the NY Times.

This man is supposed to be the wizard of fried chicken. Everyone says it. But two out of three times that I’ve tried his fried chicken, the experience was highly problematic. Fuku + was great. Ma Peche was half raw and half burnt. And this time at Noodle Bar the skin and batter wasn’t crisp enough – not by a long shot.

The bird was small but I don’t mind that. I actually prefer it, as the ratio of meat to skin and batter is usually better on a smaller bird. Also this bird had great flavor within the meat. But when there is little to no texture on the outside, it’s overall a let down.

Another let down was the “pork ramen.” When I associate David Chang with pork ramen I’m thinking of a rich, thick, fatty and almost milky tonkotsu broth. Not the case here. This was thin and lacked character. The slab of pork belly was nice enough, as were the noodles and the bamboo shoot. But the broth was weak. Even with a raw egg yolk mixed in, it was thin and watery. Maybe I’m just missing the point of this dish.

On the positive side of things, the creamy lemon and pepper lobster noodle dish was excellent. It sports lots of juicy and flavorful claw meat throughout, wide and perfectly cooked snappy noodles, and a hearty citrus and pepper zing.

The rice cakes were a bit soft but very tasty. When eaten with the corn you got the texture that was needed.

One thing I will say is that the prawn dish looked incredible. We were wishing we ordered that instead of the chicken every time we saw an order come up (we sat at the kitchen bar area). For $23 the dish comes with five huge baby lobster sized head-on prawns. Lightly batter fried and then dressed up for the big ball.

That about does it. I probably won’t come back here unless my wife and I are jonesing for that lemon-pepper lobster dish and those prawns.

MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019

Rabbit House

My wife picked up a Pulsd deal for this place that got us a six course omakase with three glasses of sake each for $89.

We opted to share six different glasses, one to pair with each course.

Yes, they do serve rabbit, and the theme of the restaurant definitely involves rabbits.

Before the omakase began, we were served a delicious, warm wedge of country bread with olive oil and pepper.

Prior to eating rabbit, we ate rabbit food. The first course was miniature crudite with a blob of miso paste, and an oyster shooter with wine jelly.

Next up, beautiful and delicious tuna tartare with fried lotus root.

Then we had this trio of beef tartare, cheeses and pork spare ribs.

After that, a yellowtail preparation that included both cooked and raw styles.

Then came the star of the show – the “trapped rabbit.”

This was pretty nice, and similar to a porchetta of sorts (rolled whole muscle cuts that are cooked, then sliced). It came with a side of dressed greens, colorful carrots and mushrooms.

Last was the black sesame custard. This was a tasty but not overly sweet way to end the meal. I enjoyed.

Over all this was good but not great. The Pulsd deal is definitely worth it, though, if it’s still available.

RABBIT HOUSE
76 Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002

Kow Cattle Company & Nobu 57

I’ve been holding off on talking about Kow Cattle Company for a bit, hoping to visit the farm and facilities out in Iowa first, but I’ve been privileged to eat so much of it in the past year that I just couldn’t hold back anymore – especially after the beef binge I just had with their product at Nobu 57.

Kow Cattle Company is a small producer of highly marbled, domestically raised wagyu full blood and purebred animals in Iowa. They’re consistently raising cattle that grade out at super high prime, with BMS scores of 8 or higher.

They made a big splash in the NYC meat scene and made some great connections both in the restaurant world and in the influencer world.

Some noteworthy folks who are featuring their product fairly regularly: BLT Steak, Delmonico’s, The Grill, The James Beard House, The Gotham Burger Social Club, Bistrot Leo, Boucherie, and, of course Nobu 57 (and more as well).

 

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Supply isn’t always high at Kow, so if you see some on a menu, grab it while you can.

My first run-in with this delicious stuff was at Bistrot Leo. I tried a burger, some tenderloin tartare, filet skewers and a tomahawk rib eye that night. As you might imagine, the shit was delicious.

 

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One of the owners of the company, Jon Urbana, who has since become a good friend of mine, sent me home with a beautiful strip steak to cook up:

Later, I banged out a tomahawk at home as well. Absolutely stunning.

The high quality, and more importantly the consistency of that quality, is pretty much untouched by any domestic producer of wagyu beef here in the states. I’d love to get some of it into my shop, but they’re currently only shipping direct from their site. Believe me, a LOT of distributors are trying to get their paws on this stuff right now. I’m not alone.

In any case, seeing that Nobu 57 is one of Kow’s purveyors here in NYC, Jon brought me there to try some of the new lot of striploin that they have.

What occurred was nothing less than a Kow Cattle Company strip loin omakase for the ages.

COURSE 1

This preparation is thinly sliced, torched and sauced with ponzu and some sesame, rare to raw. Simple and delicious.

COURSE 2

Beef nigiri sushi. This had a quick sear on the edges, rare to raw.

COURSE 3

Tataki. One of my favorites. Thin sliced after being seared on the edges, rare to raw, and then lightly dressed and garnished with some ginger and shiso.

COURSE 4

This was my favorite. This was seared on the edges as well, rare to raw, but sliced a bit thicker and garnished with a black garlic sauce and some micro sprouts. Incredible.

COURSE 5

This was similar to sukiyaki, a saucy stew with onions and greens. Really tasty, and it demonstrates that even when cooked through, this stuff is tender and savory.

COURSE 6

Classic steakhouse fare here: seared and sliced, rare to medium rare, served with a garlic miso butter on a bed of grilled asparagus. Perfection.

COURSE 7

Foie gras and wagyu beef potsticker dumplings. So decadent, and they ate almost like soup dumplings with that burst of liquified foie and wagyu renderings.

I think that covers it. When you go to Nobu 57, you’ll find Kow on the “washu” side of the menu. Ask about some of the preparations you saw here, because they’re not always on the menu. If you know about them, they may accomodate you if they have the ability. Some stuff is limited availablility, so go early and go often.

NOBU 57
40 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Nai Tapas Bar – Revisited

I recently revisited one of my favorite tapas and wine bars: Nai Tapas Bar. They’ve expanded into a two floor location, now on 2nd Ave at 5th Street (they moved from their old location on 1st Ave near 11th Street).

They offer an $89 chef’s tasting menu, which only jumps to $110 with their generous, high quality wine pairing pours for each course (and then some).

Not only is this a great deal, but it’s one of the best tasting menus I’ve had in years. Here’s how it went down.

We were met with a heaping goblet of white sangria…

Followed by a pour of the first white wine…

Which paired with the following bites:

This is truffle mushroom basmati rice with manchego cheese, beets and a perfectly poached egg.

These clams are gently broiled open and then dressed with cilantro, citrus zest and yuzu.

Next up was a pour of another white wine to go with this torched salmon and saffron nigiri and glazed Chilean sea bass (wrapped in crispy fried bread and topped with Serrano ham and asparagus).

After this, another glass of white (Gewürztraminer) came out with my favorite dish of the night (and a possible best of 2019 contender): portobello mushroom carpaccio. The Manchego cheese and crushed marcona almonds really made this pop, and the mushrooms are marinated in truffle oil.

There was a nice sangria-marinated cube of watermelon with mint served at this point, to get us ready for the next round.

After that, a red was poured…

To go along with these three meat courses:

Chicken: what a presentation. Broiled sweet mustard marinated thighs with tobiko, seaweed and champagne picked shallots. There were three kinds of sauces too.

Pork: braised marinated baby back rib.

Beef: prime rib eye katsu sando with Hokkaido milk bread and aioli, over shishito peppers.

After that, a palate cleansing cava came out, and then a glass of dessert white…

To go with this lemon tart and chocolate-stuffed churro.

What an amazing meal! There are so many more dishes I want to try on the menu. I’ll be back here again soon for sure, and I highly recommend you go as well. The price is low, the food is great, and there’s even live flamenco music.

NAI TAPAS BAR
85 Second Avenue
New York, NY 10003

Haru

My wife and I stopped in here on a weekend to try their happy hour menu.

We started with some drinks:

And then moved on to the food. Wings, shishito peppers, and four rolls: Haru wasabi, phoenix, Hell’s Kitchen, and spicy Titanic.

Everything was great, and we will definitely be back here again. The total bill for everything was just over $60. Not bad.

HARU SUSHI
859 9th Ave
New York, NY 10019

The Lobster Club

The Lobster Club is the newest venture by Major Food Group (The Grill, Parm, Carbone, The Pool, etc). What attracted me to this joint was their chili oil-, cumin- and Szechuan peppercorn- spiced tomahawk rib eye. You may recall my Szechuan strip steak recipe, where I used a similar flavor profile. Let me just admit up front that mine wasn’t as good as theirs, despite mine looking prettier and my crispy rice being fantastic.

Anyway, let me get to the meal already.

I started at the bar with a great cocktail called the Umeshu Highball: Japanese whisky, aged umeshu and sparkling water.

At the table, my wife had the Jasmine Blossom: Bourbon, plum sake, plum eau-de-vie and sherry. Garnished with a big slice of fresh ginger.

At dessert, we shared the Banana Goto: Japanese whisky, espresso, cacao and banana whipped cream. This went perfectly with our dessert, as you will see later.

The cocktails were all awesome, and I would definitely come back for a drink at the bar, for sure.

Our first course was sushi. This is an entree but we shared it as an appetizer. At $68 this is pretty hefty, but the quality was indeed top notch.

We shared the Sansho Octopus dish next. This was pricey at $28 for a single large tentacle, but it was pretty tasty, and served with some Asian style pickled radish and cucumber slices, as well as what reminded me of a chimichurri sauce on top.

Before the steak came out, they brought out this cool platter of sauces for the steak. None of them were really necessary, given the richness of the steak and the aggressiveness of the flavors, but a few of them went well. Namely, the confit garlic and the chili sauce.

The steak itself was a haymaker knockout punch of flavor. This shit is aggressive, spicy and there’s a LOT of it. You should take my 10/10 score of this with a warning: I happen to LOVE these flavors. The steak reminded me of the tingly beef noodles or the spicy cumin lamb noodles at Xian Famous. That is not everyone’s cup of tea! If you just want dry-aged beef, then go with the porterhouse here. This baby is minimally aged and it packs a wallop of interesting flavor.

The quality was great. Very tender, great cap size, edible fat. It was also cooked perfectly. If you want unique, then go for it. It’s $195 for 46oz (including the bone), and, as I said, it’s aggressively spiced. You may want to split it with three others rather than two just to give your taste buds a break.

The steak also comes with a pair of sides: blistered shishito peppers and grilled king mushrooms (my favorite kind). These were both excellent.

For dessert, we shared the Japanese Iced Coffee Kakigori. This is essentially coffee and cream flavored shave ice. A mountain of it, at that. It paired perfectly with the third cocktail I mentioned up top.

Overall this was a really good meal, but it was expensive. I probably wouldn’t go back, but I’m glad I did go. I needed to try that steak!

I came back here a second time to try the Szechuan steak again with some friends who convinced me that I should have it a second time. This time is was a bit tough. 7/10.

We also tried their porterhouse.

This, too, is pricey at $185. What I didn’t realize is that the flavor is that of sesame, in keeping with the asian theme here.

 

The flavors were nice, but again there was a texture problem. When you are paying this much for steak, they need to be perfect. 7/10.

THE LOBSTER CLUB
98 E. 53rd St
New York, NY 10022

Mifune

I was invited into Mifune with my wife to sample some of their meat dishes and post some photos on Instagram. But we started with some cocktails, because Shingo Gokan, the man behind the cocktail menu, is an award winning “mixologist.”

This is the Seven Samurai, which is made with rye, aged sake, East India sherry, bitters and smoke:

Pretty beautiful, and really tasty. The smoke aroma was as intoxicating as the booze, and it was similar to a smoked old fashioned.

The Throne of Blood is made with Japanese whisky, Bourbon Antica, Torino and bitters. This is similar to a Manhattan.

The Hidden Fortress, made with bourbon, milk, honey shrub, orange cordial and bitters, is super smooth and tasty.

Finally, we tried the Drunken Angel, made with Hibiki, Umeshu and shiso. This was also great. Very light and crisp.

Now on to the food. The first thing we tried was the steak tartare.

This is made with Angus beef, poached egg and tosazu sauce (a seafood style vinegar). Watch the video as the egg breaks into the tartare:

It was delicious. More like a beef tartare soup – very interesting.

This next item was on special: bluefin tuna temaki. It’s a rib section of bluefin tuna, served with seashells for scraping the meat out and making hand rolls with all the fixings.

Check out this video. Pretty insane!

At just $40, this is a great deal. We probably got about 10 or 12 hand rolls out of this baby.

Okay now on to the meats! First, a straw smoked rack of lamb!

The lamb was perfectly cooked to medium rare.

It came with roasted garlic and grilled fennel. But the real treat about this dish is that when it comes to the table for eating, it’s served in a clay dish that has a smoking chamber underneath, so you get to smell that awesome straw smoke aroma the whole time while you eat.

Next up was washugyu tenderloin.

Washugyu is an American Black Angus and Japanese Wagyu cross breed that achieves a great balance of beefy flavor and tender marbling. This is the same stuff I sell in my shop, pretty much. Anyway, it was incredibly tender and flavorful. They got a nice sear on the meat too. 9/10.

It’s plated up with a shallot puree and some roasted veggies.

This was easily one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. I highly recommend this place, especially for that bluefin tuna temaki. You should go ASAP if you have any interest, because I don’t know how long that will be available on special.

MIFUNE
245 E 44th St
New York, NY 10017