Saturday, April 15, 2006


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Aki [181 W. 4th St. (bet. 6th and 7th Aves.) 212-989-5440]
It won't be easy to get a table at this tiny, tasty treat, but I recommend that you give it a try. It might be the only Japanese-Jamaican restaurant in New York, and the inventiveness of this fusion cuisine is most evident in the appetizers. I highly recommend two of them: Jamaica Chicken (jerk chicken with mango teriyaki sauce) and Tuna Mille-Feuille (tuna with apple, avocado, and a white balsamic vinaigrette). Both were splendid and creative. For my main course, I ended up just trying the Sushi Assortment (which was very good, but not unique), but I should have had the Jamaica Roll and the Dinosaur Roll instead. At least it gives me a good reason to go back. Also, they have a special $26 prix fixe dinner from 6-7 PM every night.

BondSt [6 Bond St. (bet. Broadway and Lafayette St.) 212-777-2500]
Upscale and trendy, BondSt offers excellent sushi, along with a variety of other tasty dishes with a Japanese flavor to them. Located in what appears to be a converted brownstone, the decor of this multi-floor restaurant (that also features a lounge downstairs) makes you acutely aware of the fact that you are in an expensive place. For those who don't like sushi, the Grilled Rack of Lamb is extremely succulent. For those who do like sushi, most of the rolls are delicious, but I would especially recommend ordering off the daily special menu. How many times will you get to eat Barracuda sushi? Be warned that you will probably need reservations and that your meal will not come cheap. Your food, however, will be delicious.

Caffe Swish [2953 Broadway (bet. 115th and 116th Sts.) 212-222-3568]
A different kind of Japanese is served at this Shabu Shabu specialist. Popular among Columbia students, Swish also offers all the standard Japanese fare, along with select Thai dishes. I had the Shabu Shabu, however, and I was intrigued, but ultimately a little disappointed. The dish comes with more food (mostly vegetables) than you could ever possibly eat, which is good. But the process is a little overly involved for my taste (Korean BBQ is better in my opinion). The food quality was solid and the house special sauce was pretty good, however. Make sure to try the Gyoza appetizer and be hungry when you get there.

Fukumatsu [212 E. 52nd St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-754-4840]
Here's the run-down: The must-have item here is the dinner box special. It will give you a good variety of well-prepared classic Japanese specialties, while filling you up for a reasonable price. Basically, it's a solid neighborhood restaurant, but I wouldn't make a special trip there.

Fusha [1065 First Ave. (at 58th St.) 212-752-8883]
A sort of Japanese-Thai fusion restaurant, this relatively new place serves very good food at not overly expensive prices. I especially recommend the Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce or the Thai Chilean sea bass.

Gyu-Kaku [34 Cooper Sq. (bet. Astor Pl. and 4th St.) 212-475-2989]
A great place for groups, but also somewhere you could dine alone, this outpost of the Gyu-Kaku chain has some of the most delicious BBQ south of 32nd street. The menu has a lot of options for what you can throw on the grill (you have to cook it yourself), but I would recommend sticking mostly to the beef. The best option, of course, is anything Kobe. We had the Kobe Kalbi and it was simply fantastic. Almost as good however, and much cheaper, was the Harami, marinated skirt steak. A third good beef option is the regular Kalbi. Be careful when you are ordering because each portion is not that big and the tally does add up. It's worth it though. And if you can get there early or late, they have happy hour pricing on one meat each day Monday-Thursday.

Hamachi [34 E. 20th St. (bet. Park Ave. S. and Broadway) 212-420-8608]
Perhaps overshadowed by its neighbors like Mizu Sushi, this is somewhat of a hidden gem. High-quality sushi and surprisingly easy to reserve for large parties (think dinner for 10-12 people). The specialty rolls are where it's at, even if they are a little pricey. The Deep Impact Roll was particularly good and the Blue Monkey Roll was also delicious. Beware of the fried, rather than steamed, Gyoza.

Haru [1329 Third Ave. (at 76th St.) 212-452-2230 (See for more locations)]
This sushi chain could be considered the Baluchi's of Japanese food. You know what you are going to get and it will be good, but you could get better. That said, Haru certainly serves high-quality, albeit somewhat overpriced, sushi at each of its many locations.

Hasaki [210 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-473-3327]
It's yet another sushi restaurant in the East Village and guess's delicious! Hasaki offers a wide variety of fresh fish, along with some creative non-sushi entrees. I had an Angus Beef special in which I cooked the meat myself on a hot stone. It was excellent, albeit a little bit of a hassle. The best deal, however, is probably the Sushi Five ($22), in which you get 5 pieces of sushi, along with two rolls, so I would strongly recommend that option. The restaurant is pretty small, so you might have to wait at a peak time, but the food is definitely a cut above some of the more standard places.

Ise Japanese Restaurant [56 Pine St. (bet. Pearl and William Sts.) 212-785-1600]
Of the three Ise restaurants in the city, I had the pleasure of eating at the downtown establishment (the other two are in Midtown). No need to mess around here, I recommend ordering sushi. All the sushi is freshly prepared, including numerous daily specials (these are pretty expensive, however). The more standard options are reasonably priced for an upscale sushi restaurant. I greatly enjoyed my Maguro Sushi, which offered me 3 pieces each of 3 different preparations of tuna sushi. You will have plenty of room if you go for dinner, but apparently the place is packed at lunch time, so beware.

Le Miu [107 Avenue A (bet. 6th and 7th Sts.) 212-473-3100]
An absolute pearl of a restaurant in the East Village, Le Miu offers Japanese food with a twist. By that I mean that Le Miu provides its patrons with a creative array of dishes that you won't find at any ordinary Japanese joint. And when you combine excellent food with a sleek, modern atmosphere and good service, you have a place worth returning to multiple times. For appetizers, my dining companion and I began with the Grilled Marinated Duck Breast and the Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab, which was particularly delicious. For main courses, we split the Miso Marinated Baby Lamb Chops and the Chef's Sushi Platter. Both were exquisite and presented beautifully. The only thing that might scare people away from here would be the prices, but the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food and I highly recommend that anyone who reads this review pays the restaurant a visit.

Minca [536 E. 5th St. (bet. Ave. A and Ave. B) 212-505-8001]
If you're looking for a hearty bowl of ramen noodles, look no further than Minca. But before you order the noodles, there are a couple of very good appetizers you should try for variety's sake since you are probably not going to finish the whole bowl of noodles anyway. The shrimp gyoza is simply excellent, made fresh right in front of you. In addition, and I can't believe I'm writing this, the radish salad is very refreshing. The peanut-influenced sauce is wonderful. As for the ramen, I ordered the Shoyu Ramen and I was very pleased with my selection. My friends had the Minca Ramen and Toroniku Ramen, both of which were very good as well. These dishes were all extremely filling and pork-based, just so you know what you're getting into. Finally, Minca is a good choice for dinner because of its affordability, as the most expensive dish on the menu only costs $12.50.

Mishima [164 Lexington Ave. (bet. 30th and 31st Sts.) 212-532-9596]
A solid sushi option, this restaurant serves up all the standard Japanese specialties. With fresh fish and reasonable prices, you should certainly enjoy any meal here. I greatly enjoyed the Spicy Tuna roll that was a little different and went well with my Sushi special dinner.

Mizu Sushi [29 E. 20th St. (bet. Broadway and Park Ave. S.) 212-505-6688]
This hip sushi joint serves up solid sushi at expensive, but not outrageous, prices. They offer a great Maki Combo (Spicy Tuna, Shrimp Tempura, and Eel Avocado). Ask them to ring the gong when you do sake bombs.

Momofuku Noodle Bar [163 First Ave. (bet. 10th and 11th Sts.) 212-475-7899]
Well-known for its famous clientele, Momofuku is not your ordinary downtown noodle bar. It is cleaner, more crowded, and way more expensive. Is it better? Probably. Is it worth the difference in price, not to mention the potential long wait? Probably not. That said, I greatly enjoyed my $11 order of Tsukemen (chilled noodles, Berkshire pork, vegetables, dipping broth) and it was certainly very filling. But you know what I enjoyed even more? The Steamed Pork Buns. These were simply sensational (they reminded me of good Peking Duck). You must order them. On the whole, I recommend that diners visit here every so often, but do not make it your regular go-to place in the area if you are looking for a better overall value.

Nobu [105 Hudson St. (at Franklin St.) 212-219-0500]
Everything they say about how good the food is here is true. Dishes are small and not that expensive by themselves, but you have to order many of them to have a full dinner, so the bill certainly adds up by the end. Waiters are very knowledgeable about the menu and can help guide you in ordering, but I will recommend some dishes anyway. Try the Sashimi Salad, Rock Shrimp Tempura, Squid "Pasta" with Garlic Sauce, Chilean Sea Bass with Black Bean Sauce, Broiled Black Cod with Miso, and many others. The sushi is also top notch and not absurdly pricey. You might want to go for lunch if you are interested in getting a table here. Alternatively you can call far in advance for a reservation. Or visit Nobu, Next Door (which is literally next door) if you want a chance to get a table without waiting a month.

Oms/b [156 E. 45th St. (bet. 3rd and Lexington Aves.) 212-922-9788]
A very good and unique lunch option, Oms/b specializes in rice balls. For the uninitiated, a rice ball (at least at Oms/b) is basically a small pyramid of rice wrapped in seaweed and containing one filling of fish, meat, or vegetable. It is reminiscent of a sushi hand roll. These rice balls are the main attraction here, but the small restaurant also offers traditional Japanese dumplings, soup, salads, and more. I recommend the menu Set A, which allows you to choose any 3 rice balls and any soup (I like the Miso) for $7.50. And if you like seaweed salad, their version is tasty and just $2 extra. Of course you can always go a la carte if you prefer. My favorite rice balls that I have tried were the Lobster Salad and the Eel. I also enjoyed the Shrimp Dumplings. But the selection changes daily, so look around and try what seems fresh. My one concern is that I wish that each rice ball was packed with a little more meat/fish.

Poke [343 E. 85th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-249-0569]
Recently expanded (although it remains crowded all the time), but still featuring BYOB and excellent sushi, Poke is the place to go for creative and delicious sushi. Poke offers a wide variety of specialty rolls with high quality fish. Too many rolls can get a little pricey, but sushi is expensive everywhere, so when you visit, indulge yourself. Among others, I recommend the Xmas Roll, Red Dragon Roll, or the Ninja Roll.

Raku [57 W. 76th St. (bet. Columbus Ave. and Central Park West) 212-873-1220]
Top-notch sushi on the Upper West Side at typical sushi prices. I highly recommend that you visit Raku for a meal. Start off with some excellent Edamame with just the right amount of of salt on it. Then, order the Raku Sushi. This dish offers two large pieces each of 4 of the most popular cuts of sushi (salmon, tuna, eel, and yellowtail), along with a roll of your choice (get the Spicy Tuna roll). The fish is extremely tasty and I loved the sliver of avocado on top of each piece of salmon. This will now be my go-to Japanese restaurant on the Upper West Side.

Sakagura [211 E. 43rd St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-953-7253]
Such good food, and such small portions! This extremely authentic Japanese restaurant, located in the basement of a midtown building, will not let you order sushi deluxe, because sushi is not even served here. But excellent and creative dishes are certainly on display. Most of the dishes are served tapas style and the food arrives extremely quickly. Try the roast deck negimaki and the deep fried shrimp balls to start. For more entree-like fare, I suggest the toro with citrus ponzu sauce and the even better beef with citrus ponzu sauce. The beef comes raw and you must cook it with lard on a hot stone. It is remarkably flavorful. I topped off my meal with a bowl of udon noodles and mushrooms. Unfortunately the only problem with this restaurant is that if you have big appetite, you will leave hungry unless you spend at least $50. All this and I haven't even mentioned the sake. Sakagura offers an extensive sake list, even going so far as to suggest appropriate pairings of food and sake. It is definitely a classy restaurant (and apparently it has quite the lunch special too).

Sharaku [14 Stuyvesant St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-598-0403]
Located on one of the few true East-West streets in Manhattan, this friendly East Village spot offers good Japanese food at affordable prices. But for the best deal, make sure to go here on a Monday night, when you can get a wonderful prix fixe special loaded with soba, sushi, soup, and edamame.

SobaKoh [309 E. 5th St. (bet. 1st and 2nd Aves.) 212-254-2244]
Top-notch soba in the East Village. You can just get the classic Zaru Soba and you'll probably be happy, but I recommend getting one of the (cold soba) specials instead. I got my soba with soft shell crab and the taste of the shellfish definitely enhanced my soba experience. And if you're in the East Village early, they have a prix fixe menu available until 7 pm every night.

Soba Nippon [19 W. 52nd St. (bet. 5th and 6th Aves.) 212-489-2525]
One of my favorite lunch spots, Soba Nippon grows its own buckwheat for its fantastic soba noodles. My favorite is the Zaru Soba lunch which comes with a salad and tofu sushi. I will often supplement this with a toro scallion roll, showing that this place is not one-dimensional, but the noodles are clearly the best and superior to any others I have had in America.

Soba-ya [229 E. 9th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-533-6966]
A worthy rival to Soba Nippon, and perhaps better than SobaKoh, Soba-ya is well worth a visit for lovers of the buckwheat noodles. The flavor and texture of the noodles here are fantastic, as the full influence of the buckwheat can be felt in every bite. The soba is not cheap for lunch, but it does come with some excellent side dishes (such as salmon or tuna sashimi) that fill out the meal nicely. In addition, the green tea is extremely high quality. Make sure to ask for it. There are other dishes on the menu that are supposed to be good as well, so there is also something for non-soba lovers. Try to come on the early side for dinner because the restaurant is small and fills up quickly.

Sushi Lounge [132 St. Mark's Place (at Ave. A) 212-598-1188]
All sushi is 50% off all day. And it's pretty good too. Also, they have a fantastic happy hour deal on drinks from 10 pm to 1 am every night ($6.25 pitchers of Kirin!). I had the Zaru Soba, which was decent, but not exceptional. All in all, however, this is a solid option for downtown sushi and a good way to conserve funds if you are going drinking in the area.

Sushi of Gari [402 E. 78th St. (bet. 1st and York Aves.) 212-517-5340]
Make sure to get a reservation for this fantastic sushi specialist. The fish is so fresh you might think that it's still swimming. A little more expensive than most, but the food is worth it. Definitely get a dish with fish, sushi regular is a steal at $22. But the good stuff costs a little more. The Chef's special sushi is incredible, but it costs $75. If you want something special, but also fantastic, for a more affordable price, try the Tuna of Gari for $43. Another small Upper East Side location, Gari has a sister restaurant simply called Gari on the Upper West Side which is equally delicious I'm sure.

Sushi Seki [1143 First Ave. (bet. 62nd and 63rd Sts.) 212-371-0238]
Absolutely outstanding. The most unique and delicious sushi I have had in New York. I highly recommend Seki's Original Special Recipe Platter. It may be a little more expensive, but it is worth every penny for the creative combinations of fish and sauces. For those not inclined toward sushi, the Beef Negimaki is tender and tasty, and you can't go wrong with the Chilean Sea Bass. But I would still insist that sushi has to be the ticket to a splendid meal. Seki is only open for dinner, beginning at 5:30 PM, and due to the small space, you must make a reservation ahead of time if you want to eat dinner any time from about 7:00 to 9:30 PM. After that, tables and the sushi bar are often available, and amazingly the restaurant is open most nights until 3:00 AM.

Sushi Yasuda [204 E. 43th St. (bet. 2nd and 3rd Aves.) 212-972-1001]
Treat yourself to a uniquely fantastic sushi dinner here and you will not be disappointed (and if your wonderful girlfriend takes you, things will taste even better...). The fish is fresher and more diverse than at any other sushi restaurant this side of Tokyo. Make sure to choose your fish wisely and look for the freshest fish of the day (they give you a menu for this). I also recommend trying some of the fish that you don't normally see, such as Tasmanian Trout, Fluke, or White King Salmon. If you can afford it, certainly try the Omakase. The decor is spare, but classy.

Tsuki [1410 1st Ave. (bet. 74th and 75th Sts.) 212-517-6860]
An absolute gem. I am consistently amazed by how many excellent sushi restaurants there are in New York. Like many of the other ones, Tsuki has a very modest decor, but some fantastic fish. You should really make sure to treat yourself here, and here is how you should do it: Start with the 3 Salad Appetizer, which is definitely big enough to share between two people, but also worthwhile for a hungry individual. The Lobster Salad is particularly delicious and can be ordered with just seaweed (no Hijiki) in an exquisite combination. For the main event, go for the Omakase if you've got the money, but there is also a more affordable way to taste some of the best fish available. In this case, I am referring to the Tsuki Selection, in which you get six of the chef's best cuts of fish along with the fantastic Volcano Tuna Roll. In fact, this selection is big enough that you could certainly share it with someone else, along with one other roll (perhaps Salmon Carrot Sauce?), and feel full. Finally, if you still don't feel full (or even if you do), top off your meal with the Mochi ice cream. Get chocolate and vanilla. Both are excellent and come with very sweet and tasty mountain berries. On the whole, Tsuki is a very good alternative to a place like Sushi of Gari because it is cheaper, much less crowded, and of similar quality.

Yuka [1557 Second Ave. (bet. 80th and 81st Sts.) 212-772-9675]
An all-you-can-eat paradise and long-time favorite among me and my friends. For just $18.00, you can stuff yourself with tuna, salmon, and other favorites until you have gills. Unlike most places with this same deal, the fish is pretty high quality. For those without such a large appetite, most other food is fairly inexpensive as well. And portions tend to be huge.

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