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Japanese food marathon in NYC

Japanese food marathon in NYC
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    Post #1 - February 10th, 2010, 6:47 pm
    Post #1 - February 10th, 2010, 6:47 pm Post #1 - February 10th, 2010, 6:47 pm
    Before heading to Costa Rica for vacation, I had the opportunity to spend a few short nights in NYC. Knowing that my culinary world would be reduced to rice and beans shortly, decided to cram in as much as I could. One night I wanted to go out for Japanese food and couldn't decide between yakitori and sushi, so I did what any self-respecting LTHer would do - I did yakitori and sushi... and an izakaya... and wagashi.

    (click the images for larger versions @ Flickr)

    First stop, Minamoto Kitchoan
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    Although I didn't consume any of these treats until later in the evening, this was the first stop of the night. We picked out about a half dozen treats, with a chestnut wrapped in sweetened mashed chestnuts being my personal favorite. Somehow I managed to eat them without snapping any pictures.

    Next up, Sakagura, an Izakaya with over 200 options on their sake list. Located underneath an office building, Sakagura is quite charming once you get there - going down the service staircase of a dim office building doesn't portend what lies ahead.
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    We ordered a couple of dishes to share, Tamago Yaki (described as "Sliced Egg Omlette with Bonito Broth, Half Served Wrapped Around Grilled Eel") and Sanma Onigiri - "Cooked Rice Balls with Shiitake Mushroom, Pickled Radish and Mountain Vegetables Wrapped with a Whole Baked Pike Mackerel")

    Sanma Onigiri
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    Warm and savory, this played well against my cold, slightly funky, sake.

    Our next stop was just across the street (and above ground) at Sushi Yasuda. Yasuda takes itself very seriously, at a level that comes off as a bit pretentious to me and even requires that you call them to confirm your reservation at a specific time, not the other way around. That said, the food is incredible. We had a couple of appetizers and then worked our way through a dozen+ pieces of sushi each, with only one repeat (we requested another oyster).

    The most interesting thing about Sushi Yasuda for me was the rice. Slightly warm, with a mild vinegary tang, it managed to be cohesive and sticky, but with the perfectly-cooked grains separating from each other in your mouth as you chewed. Best rice I've ever had.

    Sushi Yasuda
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    Green tea-dusted tempura prawns
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    This was actually my least favorite dish of the evening. I just wasn't enamored with the flavor combination, and the texture of the little crispy panko balls coating the shrimp didn't do it for me. Luckily, things went uphill immediately.

    Fried eel spines
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    Quite possibly the worlds greatest crunchy snack, these eel spines were warm, slightly salty, fishy in a good way, and a quick squirt of lemon juice balanced them out perfectly.

    Scallop
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    Salmon (I can't remember which type of salmon this was - we tried a few)
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    Toro (with Akami to its right)
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    This was only one of two times in evening where we were served more than once piece. He wanted to show us two different levels of fattiness of tuna (he didn't mention which grade of toro it was).

    Fresh white eel
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    Warm, fresh, clean flavored eel.

    Two styles of tamago
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    He made two pieces of tamago - one described as normal, the other more custard-like (on the left) - and then split them so we could each try both.

    Oyster
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    I've never had oyster sushi before. I *really* liked this. Bright, clean oyster with that fantastic rice underneath. This got a light squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of sea salt by the chef, which balanced it out perfectly.

    After sampling what Yasuda had to offer, we took a nice walk up to Yakitori Tory's. We sat at the bar so that we could watch the chef work the grill. Grilling food on a stick is taken very seriously here, with each skewer monitored, rotated, and if not cooked to the chef's satisfaction, summarily thrown out and redone. In addition to what's pictured below, we also had some shrimp, shitaki mushroom, and a few other skewers that I can no longer recall.

    Skewer progress being monitored
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    Pork neck
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    Intensely porky, slightly salty, and with just enough smoke. A small squeeze of lemon helped cut through the richness. Probably my favorite bite of the night.

    Chicken thigh
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    At first I was disappointed that they were out of most of the more interesting chicken skewers (thigh oysters, hearts, etc.), but their basic thigh skewer really came through. Each little half-moon of thigh meat is perfectly bordered by salty, crispy skin.

    Shishito peppers
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    Shishito peppers were a favorite of mine at Mado, and unfortunately these didn't quite live up. A bit more bitter than what I had a Mado, these were tasty, but didn't live up to expectations. The red miso condiment was a winner.

    Yaki Ongiri
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    Frankly, at this point I was stuffed an a wad of rice was a poor decision on my part. The crispy bits and smear of miso made it delicious, but I almost gave in and stopped eating.

    Okra with bonito flakes
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    With no possible room for more food in our bellies, we called dinner officially complete and headed back to our hotel. We both had to work early the next morning... and get ready for another night of eating around NYC.

    -Dan


    Minamoto Kitchoan
    http://www.kitchoan.com
    608 5th Avenue
    New York, NY 10020
    (212) 489-3747

    Sakagura
    http://www.sakagura.com
    211 East 43rd Street
    New York, NY 10017
    (212) 953-7253

    Sushi Yasuda Ltd
    http://www.sushiyasuda.com
    204 East 43rd Street
    New York, NY 10017
    (212) 972-1001

    Yakitori Torys
    http://www.torysnyc.com
    248 East 52nd Street, NY
    (212) 813-1800
  • Post #2 - February 11th, 2010, 12:30 pm
    Post #2 - February 11th, 2010, 12:30 pm Post #2 - February 11th, 2010, 12:30 pm
    great pictures Dan, and some really interesting items you had.

    thanks for sharing.
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #3 - February 11th, 2010, 3:51 pm
    Post #3 - February 11th, 2010, 3:51 pm Post #3 - February 11th, 2010, 3:51 pm
    Great shots and post, Dan. Given the parameters, I think it was really cool of you to focus your eating like this. It makes a lot of sense to me.

    I'd love to try those eel spines. They're so perfect-looking, they almost look artificial. :lol:

    =R=
    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #4 - February 11th, 2010, 4:22 pm
    Post #4 - February 11th, 2010, 4:22 pm Post #4 - February 11th, 2010, 4:22 pm
    Dan, thank you so much for your post and photos. You have no idea what it means to a person who lives out in the sticks on a gravel road! :D
  • Post #5 - February 11th, 2010, 4:24 pm
    Post #5 - February 11th, 2010, 4:24 pm Post #5 - February 11th, 2010, 4:24 pm
    The problem with going on a marathon like this is that it totally ruins Japanese food in Chicago. When I go to Yasuda it takes months for me to want to eat sushi here again.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #6 - February 11th, 2010, 8:38 pm
    Post #6 - February 11th, 2010, 8:38 pm Post #6 - February 11th, 2010, 8:38 pm
    Not to mention that we don't have yakitori like that! Wow! And I'm with you, ronnie, on the eel spines - they're callin' my name.
  • Post #7 - February 11th, 2010, 11:45 pm
    Post #7 - February 11th, 2010, 11:45 pm Post #7 - February 11th, 2010, 11:45 pm
    I still contend that those prawns are delicious, but I'm glad you had a gut-busting Nipponese blowout. It looks like you had some excellent variety.

    I very much look forward to emulating and expanding on this post the next time I'm in NYC.

    And yes, Mhays, we need good izakayas!
  • Post #8 - February 12th, 2010, 12:17 pm
    Post #8 - February 12th, 2010, 12:17 pm Post #8 - February 12th, 2010, 12:17 pm
    Mhays wrote:Not to mention that we don't have yakitori like that!
    A day or two prior to this set of meals, the two of us explored Queens with input from LTH and PIGMON & trixie-pea. One of the many things we ate that day was meat on a stick from a street vendor. $1 each - we tried both lamb and chicken. Delicious, no doubt, but a totally different meat-on-stick experience. Yakitori Torys brings precision and refinement to bear on otherwise rustic streetfood.
    gastro gnome wrote:I still contend that those prawns are delicious
    My lovely dining companion really enjoyed the prawns. I am, in the interest of full disclosure, not normally a fan of green tea-flavored things (besides a cup of tea).

    -Dan
  • Post #9 - February 12th, 2010, 1:45 pm
    Post #9 - February 12th, 2010, 1:45 pm Post #9 - February 12th, 2010, 1:45 pm
    Dansch--

    I understand the old phrase "if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it", but I'd like to know, basically--what you paid for what you got.

    I passed on Yasuda last time in NYC because of time constraints & did Sushiden instead. While it was very very good, I've regretted the decision every since, and those pictures bolster that thought.
  • Post #10 - February 12th, 2010, 2:34 pm
    Post #10 - February 12th, 2010, 2:34 pm Post #10 - February 12th, 2010, 2:34 pm
    jnm123 wrote:I understand the old phrase "if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it", but I'd like to know, basically--what you paid for what you got.
    Just sent you a pm with details.

    Short story: I was expecting to walk out feeling serious pain in the wallet, and left thinking it was surprisingly reasonable and not much more than I'd expect to pay at a good (but not fantastic) sushi joint. With appetizers and sake across the street at Sakagura, a great one-two punch.

    -Dan
  • Post #11 - February 18th, 2010, 8:11 pm
    Post #11 - February 18th, 2010, 8:11 pm Post #11 - February 18th, 2010, 8:11 pm
    dansch, thanks so much for the recommendation of Yakitori Torys. I just came from there and it was perfect for a low-key, solo dinner. Everything was delicious and it was very enjoyable to sit at the bar watching the grill man and his two assistants at work.

    Here's what I had: two skewers of chicken oysters (I went early before they ran out), two skewers of chicken thighs, one each of pork neck, shishito peppers with miso, kuruma shrimp, shisyamo smelt, and yaki onigiri, the grilled rice ball. I also had an order of assorted tsukemono as an appetizer which was excellent, though baffling, since I couldn't identify all of the pickled vegetables I was eating. The total before tax and tip was $35.

    My favorite things were the chicken oysters, just incredible light crunchy skin on top of rich tender meat. But I think my second favorite thing was the rice ball, which I had with soy, at the waitress's suggestion, rather than miso. I can imagine it was a bit much during your third dinner of the night :) but I thought it was great. Anyone who is a fan of crispy rice at the bottom of the pan should try this -- socarrat on a stick.

    There are some unusual things on the menu that would be interesting to try: an appetizer of squid liver, for example, or grilled chicken "soft knee bones". Unfortunately the link to the menu appears to be down at their website but they do link to the following NYT article from 2006 about some of their exotic offerings:
    http://events.nytimes.com/2006/12/13/di ... ref=dining

    Open late, too! :)
    Yakitori Torys
    http://www.torysnyc.com
    248 East 52nd Street, 2nd floor
    New York, NY 10022
    (212) 813-1800
    T-Sat 5:30pm-4am, Sun-M 5:30pm-midnight
  • Post #12 - February 27th, 2010, 8:10 pm
    Post #12 - February 27th, 2010, 8:10 pm Post #12 - February 27th, 2010, 8:10 pm
    When I went to Sushi Yasuda a couple of years ago, we ordered the eel spines as an appetizer, then I ordered them again later in the meal. Glad to hear someone else liked them as well as I did.
  • Post #13 - July 7th, 2011, 1:37 pm
    Post #13 - July 7th, 2011, 1:37 pm Post #13 - July 7th, 2011, 1:37 pm
    Yakitori Torys is no more; in its place is Hide-Chan Ramen. Does Manhattan need another ramen joint? Who knows, but this place is serious (you are asked for your preferences regarding firmness of the noodles and richness of the broth) and the kuro ramen (with toasted garlic oil) is both unusual and wonderful. Some may consider the toppings parsimonious (e.g. two thin slices of pork, though you have the option of adding more for an upcharge), but for me it's all about the broth and noodles.
  • Post #14 - July 11th, 2011, 3:20 pm
    Post #14 - July 11th, 2011, 3:20 pm Post #14 - July 11th, 2011, 3:20 pm
    Just a head's up for anyone who might wander by: Montréal has several izakayas, the best of which is
    Imadake, IMHO. Went recently with some of my students, including a Japanese who knew what he was doing! The miso-marinated grilled black cod is simply to die for.

    Anyway, if/when you have a chance, give it a try.

    Geo
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #15 - July 11th, 2011, 3:46 pm
    Post #15 - July 11th, 2011, 3:46 pm Post #15 - July 11th, 2011, 3:46 pm
    Thanks for the info Geo. I'm taking a trip up to the MTL in the next few months - I'll have to check in with recs before then...

    As for those who are seeking good Yakitori in NYC, there is always Yakitori Totto, midtown stalwart and self-proclaimed "best of NYC". I'm not sure the latter claim is entirely accurate, but many, including myself, enjoy it immensely. Some of the yakitori isn't great - avoid the chicken liver and scallops for example, both are over-cooked. Classics like chicken thigh, beef tongue and shishito are very well executed, however.

    In all, a great place for lunch and drinks if you are visiting midtown or Central Park.

    I've been on a Japanese food and Izakaya binge lately. Will post in this thread soon.

    Yakitori Totto
    251 West 55th Street (b/w Broadway and 8th)
    New York, NY 10019-5202
    (212) 245-4555
    "By the fig, the olive..." Surat Al-Teen, Mecca 95:1"
  • Post #16 - July 19th, 2011, 12:17 am
    Post #16 - July 19th, 2011, 12:17 am Post #16 - July 19th, 2011, 12:17 am
    I was in NYC last week and had an outstanding lunch at 15 East. I opted for the $65 sashimi and sushi omakase, supplemented with a soba noodle with uni course. The soba noodles are made by the chefs formerly employed at Honmura An, a place I used to go because the house made soba noodles were exemplary. I had 6 (or so) different sashimi and about 6 pieces of sushi, ending with a negi toro maki (scallion and fatty tuna roll). Every piece of fish was outstanding. I'm a bit hazy as it has been a while, but the fresh prawn (with fried head), shima aji, kampahchi and chutoro were great (as were pretty much everything else). I arrived at 12:00 and was alone at the bar with chef Masa for the first 30 minutes. It didn't hurt.

    I've had three omakase dinners at 15 East and place it (at least) equal to Yasuda for my sushi dollar (although it seems to be more expensive than Yasuda as Yasuda doesn't offer much in the way of alcoholic beverages). The starter of slow cooked octopus is stuff dreams are made of.

    After lunch, I made my way to La Cremeria for some of the best gelato I've ever had. I won't be stopping at Il Laboratorio Del Gelato anytime soon. The special 80% chocolate (Nocone?) gelato was so good I went back the next day for seconds (after a nice lunch at The Dutch).

    15 East
    15 E 15th St # B
    New York, NY 10003-3157
    (212) 647-0015
    Open Weekdays 11:45am-2pm, 6pm-10:30pm; Sat 6pm-10:30pm

    La Cremeria
    178 Mulberry St
    (between Broome St & Kenmare St)
    Manhattan, NY 10012
    Subway: 14 St - Union Sq

    I would highly recommend a trip here on the Japanese circuit.

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