Tag Archives: japanese

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

Kimika

Most fusion restaurants are characterized by a big swing, and a big miss. The intentions are usually good, and the concepts make sense on paper, but at bat on the plate, they just don’t have the right swing. Kimika is the exception. Chef Christine Lau VERY successfully marries Japanese, and other aspects of regional Asian cuisine, with high end Italian cuisine. She knocks it out of the park! My wife and I went with another food-obsessed couple, so we were able to try most of the menu.

First off, excellent cocktails! I loved their take on an old fashioned.

To start, we snacked on a bowl of spiced olives, tuna tartare and wagyu + uni skewers. All fantastic.

This squash and sunflower pesto pizzette was an incredible expression of Asian + Italian – also very light and crisp. A great snack.

The “pasta” dishes are where you really see that marriage, though. This shrimp and prosciutto tortellini with mochi in a Japanese broth was probably our favorite bite of the night.

The crispy rice cake lasagna with Italian sausage was up there though, and I’m finding myself craving this as I write…

Even the vegetable selections are all beautiful mash-ups of Italian and Asian flavors, and all of them were great! Our favorite was the charred green beans with olive tapenade and prosciutto (first pic below).

The mains are pretty incredible here. We started with an amazing porchetta. Look at that crispy skin!

Then we moved on to a surf & turf plate, composed of spot prawns that were basted with uni butter, and a killer dry-aged steak with a pickled greens and wasabi spread.

So good! And easily one of the best steaks I’ve had in a very long time. 10/10 – it really brought the funk!

Dessert was also a homerun with the yakult soft serve (our favorite), tiramisu and warm mochi bomboloncini.

I highly recommend this place, and I can’t wait to go back!

KIMIKA
40 Kenmare St,
New York, NY 10012

Wagyuman

The Wagyu Man e-shop is currently offering 10% off all orders, and a free order of chuck roll wagyu shabu shabu with each wagyu beef order!

The otoro tuna is insane, and has marbling that looks more like beef than fish.

And the beef? Well, check out these flat iron steaks. INSANE!

 

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

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

Oka

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS NOW CLOSED

Some of you might remember my recent review of The Crimson Sparrow, up in Hudson, NY.

That was one of the best meals I had all year in 2017. Well, now the Chef/Owner has a Japanese-inspired small plates izakaya joint over in Murray Hill called Oka, and the meal I just ate there is likely to be one of the best meals I will have this year.

A little bit about Chef John McCarthy, which I have shamelessly jacked from the Oka Website:

John is a former lawyer who left a legal career to attend the French Culinary Institute. After graduating from FCI at the top of his class, he worked for Chef Wylie Dufresne at wd-50 for several years, ultimately becoming Chef Wylie’s research and development cook. John is also a certified sake sommelier, and has spent a considerable amount of time in Asia. He lived in South Korea for three years when he was in high school, and he typically travels to Japan at least once a year to either stagiaire or travel for food and drink research and development. For the past two years, he has partnered with Chef Hiroyoshi Amano to prepare two dinners for Outstanding in the Field at the foot of Mt. Fuji for Fujisan Winery.

Not only does he know his way around sake, but he has also crafted some really nice cocktails and curated an impressive selection of spirits as well.

In addition to the impressive cocktail and spirits menu, there’s also a really great happy hour from 5:30-7:00, during which the listed items are just $5.

I was happy to see one of my favorite Japanese beers on that menu, Orion:

Okay so let me get down to business. My wife and I tried a bunch of stuff here. Everything on the menu looked so good that it was really difficult to decide what NOT to order.

Okay so first, the baguette:

This unassuming dish was a great way to open up the meal. The shio kombu butter with smoked salt was wild and invigorating, and the perfectly grill-toasted Balthazar bread was excellent and fresh.

We actually dragged some of it through our second plate, which was the salmon roe with yeasted sunchoke puree and sunchoke chips.

I’m in love with all things sunchoke, so I jumped at this right away. This dish would make for a perfect light breakfast. It was just the right balance of smooth from the puree, pop from the roe, and crunch from the chips.

Just when you thought a Caesar salad couldn’t get exciting, John McCarthy serves you one that is.

This is Romaine lettuce with smoked Caesar dressing, nori panko, anchovy, crispy baked parmesan chips, and shaved, dried bonito flakes. For those of you who are all about that nice fish flavor in a proper Caesar salad, this is all you. It was bonkers.

Next up, steak tartare.

This was easily one of the best tartare dishes I’ve ever had. It stands out among the competition for its notably unique flavor profile. Chef John brilliantly swaps out some of the more standard tartare ingredients for things like pine nuts, gochujang and shiitake to bring this traditionally French dish into his Asian comfort zone.

This next dish was simple but so delicious. Deep fried maitake mushroom, seasoned with za’atar and served atop a smoked dijon mustard sauce. If for some fucked up reason I ever have to give up meat, I would need to consume a lot more fungus like this to try to fill the void. It was meaty, savory, and satiating.

This is grilled baby squid with charcoal garlic oil, kewpie mayo and micro daikon.

The charcoal garlic oil was really something special here. Very simple cook on the squid, but lots of complexity in the sauce.

These giant grilled head-on prawns were massive!

The simple preparation of soy, ponzu and citrus salt allowed them to really shine for the superb products that they are. Make sure you suck the juices out of their heads!

I really dig rice cakes. This Korean version is like gnocchi, only made with rice flour instead of semolina and egg.

This preparation is kinda like mac and cheese; it’s baked with creamy white cheddar and garlic oil, and then topped with spicy cod roe. It might sound weird, but this and the tartare were my favorite dishes of the night! These were like little pillows of chewy goodness with a touch of crunch on the outside, all in a velvety cheese sauce.

Hamachi collar.

There was so much meat on this baby, and every bit of it was juicy and bursting with flavor. I’m convinced this is the best part of the fish. I loved every bite, and it went well with the soy and yuzu lemon zest seasoning that was on it.

This next beautiful and tasty dish is fried rice with pickled mustard greens and mustard seed. Nothing goes better with fried rice than a sunny side up egg. Bur seriously, how gorgeous is this?

The hits just keep on coming. Buttermilk fried chicken:

All the best, most tender parts here. And that dipping sauce is a chili and black sesame mayo. Really nice.

STEAK!

This was a 30-day dry aged Niman ranch cut, which was grilled up and served with a nice house spice made with dried mushrooms and a bunch of other umami bomb type ingredients. Really flavorful!

And last but not least, dessert:

These are Chinese fried dough crullers with white caramel ice cream on a bed of chocolate coffee crumble. Such a dynamic and interesting combination of flavors.

In fact that’s kind of the theme running through the entire meal. Every bite keeps you guessing, and every dish is not only visually arresting, but amazingly tasty as well.

One final note about this place: I love how casual it is. The food is all stunning and delicious, but there is no pretense or attitude. There’s plenty of space to stretch out between tables, unlike other crowded izakaya spots around the city.

There’s also some great bar seating as well.

I highly recommend this place. Get over there and give it a try.

OKA
439 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10016