Japanese

Ganso Yaki

Dried Skate, Baby Anchovy and Squid, Ganso Yaki Brooklyn

Located on a sunny corner right near Barclays Center in Brooklyn, this spin off of Ganso Ramen specializes in Japanese street food and grilled meats and vegetables – basically everything you need to go with beer or sake. There are big wooden booths and counter seating overlooking the grill. It’s a set up that works well with what socializing New York diners seem to be craving right now: drinks and shared food.  (more…)

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Cherry

Try as I might, I could never be a sushi purist. As much as I appreciate the exquisite creations at places like Neta, where local fish gets molded onto a bed of perfectly seasoned rice right before your eyes, there are some times you just want a deliciously inauthentic spicy tuna roll. To paraphrase the Paul Newman paradox: why go out for a hamburger when you can have steak at home? Because sometimes you just want a hamburger.  (more…)

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Neta

There are a couple places near my apartment where I would eat once a week if money were no object. One is Blue Hill, another is Neta, the sliver of a sushi restaurant opened on an unlikely block of 8th street populated by defunct shoe shops and a Gray’s Papaya. The omakase, made by Masa alums Nik Kim and Jimmy Lau, will set you back $95, but it is money so well spent that, as at Blue Hill, you will start plotting your next meal here before you even walk out the door.  (more…)

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Minca

Exterior 2, Minca

Everyone has a favorite ramen place, but the one that comes up over and over again among downtown denizens is Minca. This tiny East Village spot has less than 20 seats, but on most nights they’re full of people slurping down noodles.  (more…)

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Totto Ramen

In a city full of ramen restaurants, Totto Ramen has become an essential stop on the NYC ramen tour. Opened just a couple of years ago by by the owner of Yakitori Totto, this Tokyo-style lunch spot on far West 52nd draws a crowd into the narrow space, where the din of the open kitchen spills over into a room full of diners hunched over bowls of steaming noodles. It’s a little crowded, it’s a little chaotic, and that’s just as it should be.

Interior, Totto Ramen

Noodles are what gave ramen soups their name, but for me the key element is the broth. The milky pork broth of Ippudo’s tonkotsu ramen was a revelation when it landed in New York on Fourth Avenue. The broth, with its super umami taste and velvety mouth feel, remains one of the big draws at this perennially popular restaurant.  (more…)

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Asiadog

Corn dogs are best avoided if you can’t help wondering when the actual hot dog last saw the light of day before it was encrypted in a wall of starchy, mysteriously cylindrical corn breading. Last month? Or several millennia ago?

The Dog and Kimchi Pancake Corndog, Asiadog

So it was with some trepidation that I ordered the kimchi pancake corndog ($6) at the new eight-seat restaurant and takeout joint Asiadog on Kenmare street. Theirs was no machine-made corn dog, however, but a reassuringly asymmetrical dog, pictured right, much like an actual kimchi pancake would look when recently wrapped around a beef hot dog and deep fried until golden brown. The results were astoundingly delicious, drizzled with a sweet and spicy homemade sauce a lot like the addictive sauce in a good bulgogi.  (more…)

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Lunch: Ippudo

The most popular restaurant in my neighborhood is one I haven’t been able to visit until now. Every time I walked by Ippudo, it was mobbed, the plate glass window full of the forlornly hungry faces of gastro tourists and dedicated locals. Waits were usually an hour or more, which meant we usually walked away shaking our fists and saying, “It’s just soup, people! Get a grip!”

Akamaru Modern Ramen With Egg, Ippudo NY

In cases like this, you usually try to console yourself by getting the same dish in a nearby alternate restaurant. But now that I’ve actually been able to eat at Ippudo, I can report that it can be revelatory – and not nearly the same as your average ramen place around the corner. (more…)

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Sake Bar Hagi

Sake Bar Hagi - ExteriorThere’s a traditional red paper lantern at the door, stairs leading down off a random Midtown street, and the words “sake bar” inscribed on the wooden door jamb. Otherwise, there’s nothing that would alert you to this cult favorite izakaya place in Times Square. But look two doors left of the Hawaiian Tropic Zone and you’ll find Sake Bar Hagi, a draw for New Yorkers and Japanese tourists alike. The menu outside may not look particularly tempting, unless calves liver sashimi or broiled dried skate fin is your thing, but add your name and cell phone number to the list downstairs and in a half hour to an hour you will be inside, well on your way to figuring out the appeal of this place.  (more…)

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Sushi of Gari 46

Omakase is the trust fall of dining. Not only are you taking whatever the chef dishes out, at traditional sushi restaurants, you’re taking it raw. Usually this should not be attempted on Restaurant Row in the theater district, where you’ll find shrimp scampi as half-baked as the latest 80’s-pop-culture musical adaptation. But the best thing in previews right now is a traveling show: Sushi of Gari 46.

If you haven’t been to Gari on either the Upper West Side or Upper East Side, it’s the kind of place where the chefs wince if you order a Coke or dunk the rice side of your sushi in a brimming dish of soy sauce. But so much artistry goes into the creation of Gari’s omakase that it’s no wonder they’re irked by neophytes.

The spirit of experimentation at Sushi of Gari 46 is evident by the first course. Black bean paste came in a chewy square, left, and yellowtail was ground up, seasoned with something even fishier, and fried into a fish ball. The staff is friendly, but it’s definitely English-as-a-second-language here, so it took a while to understand what exactly is the pleasantly chewy ingredient in the peanut noodle dish: burdock root, which was quite tasty.

The liquid-smoke flavor I noticed at Katsuya in L.A. reappeared here in the seared baby yellowtail, far left. It was barely cooked, but it was deliciously redolent with char. Continuing from left to right, next came salmon tonnato, red snapper decked with an Italian combo of spicy lettuce and pinenuts. (Do we need an Italian-Japanese place like Natsumi, or do we just need more creative sushi chefs like Masatoshi Gari Sugio?)

Sushi of Gari is known more for the things Sugio can do with sushi than the quality of fish he procures, and this held true for this newest branch of Gari too. Some of the plainer preparations, like the bluefin tuna with a tofu schmear, far right, were boring when not jazzed up by very flavorful extra ingredients or sauces. But these could be subtle, too, like the raw lobster, second from left, which tasted as if it had been infused with herbs backstage, though it arrived at the table unadorned.

One of the best things we sampled was the fatty tuna glazed in the chef’s oyster soy sauce, far right. This was a very high quality, melt-in-your-mouth piece of fish. Gari’s oyster sauce, like Momofuku’s hoisin sauce, is so
much more delectable because it’s made in-house.

Some of Gari’s creations pushed the envelope a little too far, like the Spanish mackerel decked with shiitakes, second from left above. The two flavors might have been excellent on their own, but the smoky taste of the mushrooms clashed with the mackerel’s fishy taste.

Then came the worst thing of all: Nothing! That was the last course, our waiter informed us when he came to clear our plates.

“You should have warned us!” my friend cried, only half kidding. The four course omakase had set us back $75 each, but it was filling.

The show at Sushi of Gari 46 was over. Onto the next: Love Musik, a great musical still in previews, starring Michael Cerveris and the brilliant Donna Murphy. Just when I was beginning to think the phrases “Restaurant Row” and “big-budget musical” might be synonymous with “mediocrity,” along came true creativity and intellectual stimulation in the unlikeliest of places.

Sushi of Gari 46
347 West 46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues
212-957-0046

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