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Best all around Japanese in NYC?

jundomania Nov 29, 2006 09:25 PM

What are the best all around Japanese restaurants in NYC? I know that Aburiya Kinnosuke and Toraya are excellent. Any other ideas?

  1. r
    rachael333 Nov 29, 2006 10:37 PM

    BLUE RIBBON is fantastic


    3 Replies
    1. re: rachael333
      MJBromberg Dec 17, 2006 03:40 AM

      You are obviously a person of superb taste and discernment. Correct name is Blue Ribbon Sushi (Sullivan St. near Prince in SOHO). It's twin is on 5th Ave. in Park Slope.

      1. re: rachael333
        joneze Jan 21, 2007 10:18 PM

        I used to be a huge fan of BRS, but recently the food has gone downhill; went to Sasabune and had a great meal; would definitely recommend

        1. re: joneze
          rjm Jul 20, 2007 01:55 PM

          Totally agree. For years I ate at BRS at least once a week! Sad to say I don't go anymore. The definitely lost something...

      2. h
        hungry_san Nov 30, 2006 01:08 AM

        Didn't Toraya close?

        1. s
          souldawg Nov 30, 2006 03:16 AM

          Unfortunately I don't think there is one well rounded Japanese restaurant in the traditional sense. Most people associate sushi only as Japanese, and that an americanized version.

          Overall I have to go Masa (I was treated there once by a very nice friend).

          More affordable versions, I prefer Hasaki.

          1. k
            KeikoT Nov 30, 2006 07:18 PM

            LOVE Sakagura - I'm Japanese American and I am very picky about authentic Japanese food. They have an incredible sake list (not a sake drinker thou) and great variety of foods - all wonderfully presented. It's located in an office building and the walk down the steps and down the rickety hallway is not attractive, but you will be PLEASED with the restaurant. We take our Japanese executives there too. Located on 43rd between 2nd and 3rd ave.

            9 Replies
            1. re: KeikoT
              linlinchan Nov 30, 2006 07:20 PM

              That's good to know! I'm SUPER picky about it, too, so I've got to try this out when I go home.

              1. re: KeikoT
                censorone Nov 30, 2006 08:55 PM

                i'll second Sakagura. i like the unassuming hallway/stairs. it was such a nice surprise my first time there and i see the same reaction when i bring guests there. the menu is varied. the pork belly is a must!

                1. re: censorone
                  Simon Nov 30, 2006 09:07 PM

                  i used to go to Sakagura all the time...but i thought it went into a steep decline about two years ago...the staff changed dramatically and for the worse: sweet helpful waitresses replaced by very snide waiters...they were particularly rude to Japanese female friends whom i brought there (sort of giving an attitude that only wanted to serve businessmen)...i haven't been back in over a year...any thoughts on the current service there?

                  1. re: Simon
                    censorone Nov 30, 2006 10:47 PM

                    i dressed down with 3 friends last month. i have never worn business attire. staff has always been helpful, especially the sake experts.

                    but i don't blame anyone for not returning due to poor service.

                    1. re: censorone
                      Simon Nov 30, 2006 10:54 PM

                      maybe it's changed back for the better...i'll stop again sometime for a glass of shochu and see if it works for me...*smiles*

                2. re: KeikoT
                  bloor Dec 6, 2006 02:37 PM

                  OK, if you're picky, I have a request. I had some amazing ocha zuke (tea rice) in Tokyo. Not just broth, rice and a little garnish, but a real spread with pickles and sashimi on the side, plus what I think were deep fried tapioca pearls on the rice. I've found ocha zuke in the city at such places as Village Yokocho and Aburiya Kinnosuke, but it's always been a pretty plain dish. Anyone encountered a good rendition?

                  1. re: bloor
                    KeikoT Dec 7, 2006 01:56 PM

                    Ochazuke is a tough one. It's meant to be such a simple dish. Something the normal Japanese eat when they want something really simple, no frills - comfort food, like mac-n-cheese for Americans. It's going to be hard to find that here in the US, even NYC, b/c Japanese restaurants can't make a killing off of serving awesome ochazuke, and because only the Japanese would eat it. No Americans really know about and even if they tried it, they'd think the same: very bland, very boring. I eat ochazuke sometimes when i'm out because I crave some "home-cooking" - and eating tempura and teriyaki is far from "home-cooking" in my mind. But that is exciting that you had that kind of experience in Tokyo! Treasure it! By the way, maybe they would be able to do that at some places that serve Kaiseki - kaiseki is all about being simple, but elegant and detailed and flavorful. Perhaps they would specialize in ochazuke or something like it... I suggested Ito-en's Kai and Kitano Hotel below as possible Kaiseki places (have never been, though).

                    1. re: bloor
                      Ricky Dec 7, 2006 02:10 PM

                      Totto and Torys makes a good solid ochazuke with fresh wasabi, and riingo kyuri on the side. Not the most innovative. I did see an old issue of japion with restaurants that have good ochazuke once.

                      1. re: Ricky
                        bloor Jan 5, 2007 05:35 PM

                        Ate at Sake Bar Hagi last night and had a good, satisfying ochazuke. Still not the equal of what I had in Tokyo, but better than I had at Aburiya Kinnosuke, Village Yokocho, or anywhere else. I realize, though that you can pretty much ask for ochazuke at any Japanese restaurant. They always have the basic ingredients on hand (rice, tea, nori, bonito, wasabi, etc.). Better yet, next time I pass a Japanese grocery, I'll just pick up the ingredients myself (plus some arare crackers for sprinkling).

                  2. j
                    jundomania Dec 1, 2006 12:46 AM

                    There are two Toraya's. The tea room on the upper east side closed. The other Toraya is at 300 1/2 East 52nd Street. I have not been there in a few years, but it is a phenomenal very small restaurant. 212.838.4351 Check it out. No sushi served except maybe with a pre-ordained meal. They are always getting mixed up...maybe i mixed them up and this one closed and the other one is open.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jundomania
                      E Eto Dec 1, 2006 01:54 PM

                      They both closed.

                    2. j
                      jcm Dec 1, 2006 05:35 PM

                      We have to put Sushi Yasuda near the top of the list. I know he (yasuda) is cocky and a little snide, but sit at the bar and let him take you for a ride. (lol) I have been going on and off for years and it keeps me smiling for a couple of days. It's a really mellow place and you would feel comfortable dressed in any neat attire. That said I have not been to Masa and if you have no budget, I hear that is the place.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: jcm
                        ChuToro Dec 5, 2006 02:01 AM

                        What sort of Japanese cuisine are you into? There are lots of choices:
                        Noodle Bars
                        Dim Sum
                        Chiriashi, etc.

                        I'd suggest a few different types:

                        Blue Ribbon Sushi
                        Soba Ya
                        Natori (if you are on a budget)

                        They are all great!

                        1. re: ChuToro
                          Silverjay Dec 5, 2006 02:18 AM

                          Dim Sum is Cantonese-Chinese. Not Japanese.

                          1. re: Silverjay
                            ChuToro Dec 5, 2006 02:33 AM

                            Your right.

                          2. re: ChuToro
                            jundomania Dec 5, 2006 10:54 PM

                            I like mostly traditional food, which is why I love Aburiya Kinnosuke. I want to try to find restaurants that are different from the myriad of sushi places.

                            1. re: jundomania
                              Silverjay Dec 6, 2006 01:31 PM

                              I wouldn't call it an "all around" Japanese place, but have you tried Chiyono on 6th St. in the EV? This is the closest place I've found in NYC to what you would eat in a Japanese home on a daily basis. There's not many like it in the city...Aburiya Kinnosuke is good. It's not so much traditional- more like contemporary Japan.

                              1. re: Silverjay
                                Spoony Bard Dec 7, 2006 04:08 PM

                                Agreed on Chiyono for homestyle Japanese.

                              2. re: jundomania
                                bloor Dec 6, 2006 02:33 PM

                                seconded on Aburiya Kinnosuke. The service is fantastic, especially for the price. The food is excellent. Try the yellowtail collar, at $30, it's one of the most expensive things on the menu, but it serves two as a main course easily. My one quibble is that the vegetables are not a very good deal. Six bucks for three stalks of asparagus and a pat of butter is a bit much. Still, eat a salad at home and then go chow down. (Other favorites are the tsukune, the pork cheek with miso, and anything on houba leaf.)

                                1. re: bloor
                                  jundomania Dec 7, 2006 10:35 AM

                                  Are there other gems like Aburiya Kinnosuke out there? Even on the expensive side like Kaiseke (spelling?) places?

                                  1. re: jundomania
                                    KeikoT Dec 7, 2006 02:05 PM

                                    I still believe Sakagura is a gem. Still packed with Japanese folks and not infiltrated with Americanized dishes. I also really like Kodama Sushi (on 45th and 8th ave). I have heard people think hte service there is bad, but as a Japanese person, I've never had bad service b/c they all speak Japanese. And in Japanese restaurants, you're supposed to wave people over if you want anything. They don't come around to see how you're doing every 2 minutes. That's the trick. You ask for what you want, whether its water, your food, or a dessert menu.

                                    1. re: KeikoT
                                      Silverjay Dec 7, 2006 02:23 PM

                                      I like Sakagura as well. I think the head chef there has good sense. It's a little pricey, but it's Manhattan... Keiko, have you been to Chiyono? It's nearly a full menu of Japanese comfort food.

                                      1. re: Silverjay
                                        oonth Dec 7, 2006 07:39 PM

                                        I've always eaten and drunk really well at Sakagura (I'm a fan of their sake tasting soirees as well and of the sake sommelier Cheez or Chizuku) and in recent times have managed to get the overall spend down from approx $100 per person to nearer $50 per person.

                                        It's also a great place to take the steady stream of visitors I receive from London/Europe as it always goes down well in terms of food, drink, charm, ambience, subterranean setting and general uniqueness.

                                    2. re: jundomania
                                      Lau Dec 7, 2006 03:31 PM

                                      where aburiya on? i've been meaning to try it for a while

                            2. k
                              KeikoT Dec 7, 2006 01:50 PM

                              apparently Ito-En's Kai and Kitano Hotel's restaurant have good kaiseki. I haven't been to either but looking to go soon. I've had some great kaiseki experiences in Kyoto and Osaka. mmm, good.

                              1. j
                                jundomania Dec 7, 2006 03:42 PM

                                Aburiya Kinnosuke
                                213 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017
                                between Second and Third Aves.

                                1. j
                                  jundomania Dec 7, 2006 03:42 PM

                                  Are there good kaiseki in NYC?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: jundomania
                                    kenito799 Dec 7, 2006 03:57 PM

                                    Sugiyama 251 W 55th (8th) is supposed to be good. However, I have not tried. Please tell me what you think if you go.

                                    1. re: jundomania
                                      oonth Dec 7, 2006 07:32 PM

                                      From what I can make out the kaiseki places in Manhattan are Kai, Sugiyama and Hakubai (in the Kitano). Of these Sugiyama sounds like the most enticing and the best reviewed. There is also a very recently opened kaiseki place in TriBeCa called Rosanjin so keep an eye out for some reviews of that place.

                                      I've had limited kaiseki experiences in Kyoto and Nara and enjoyed the experiences a lot, especially the ceremonial nature of the dining experience and the range of seasonal ingredients and japanese cuisine subsets on offer in one meal. I plan to try the kobe beef kaiseki menu at Sugiyama over the next few weeks so will report back.

                                      In terms of the "all round Japanese" requested by the OP, kaiseki would be a good, albeit expensive, way to go.

                                      1. re: oonth
                                        omotosando Dec 12, 2006 05:48 AM

                                        Kai is quite good, albeit not on par with the best kaiseki in Japan (for one thing, you don't get a private tatami room). I have not tried Sugiyama or Hakubai, but may give Sugiyama a try on my next trip to NYC.

                                        As to ocha-zuke, I too fell in love with it in Tokyo. The best bet for anyone looking for it in the States is to cultivate a relationship with a high-end Japanese restaurant and then see if the chef will make it for you as part of a special omakase dinner.

                                    2. Senor Popusa Dec 7, 2006 09:14 PM

                                      I like Yakitori Totto for yakitori. It is quite goos, reasonable and delicious. For sushi, Sushi Yasuda.

                                      For assorted cooked food, Sakagura. Such a great space, wonderful sake list and dishes that you don't see everywhere.

                                      1. j
                                        jungirl Dec 8, 2006 06:53 AM

                                        i second yakitori totto. fave dishes: chicken stuff shimeji skewers, meatball with brown sauce skewers (dip in raw quail egg), enoki mushroom wrapped in bacon skewers. the potato salad is amazing (pieces of bacon), the onion salad is really nice (and i never eat raw onions) homemade garlic dressing, ouzousi (rice porridge) to end your meal. it has egg, chicken and chopped shiso leaf in it. they serve it with citrus ponzu to flavor it. i crave this hearty dish in the winter. the chicken salad with spicy mustard dressing is great too.

                                        yakitori totto is basically a nicer higher end izakaya, but not as expensive as sakagura. for cheaper alternatives, that i still love, typhoon on st marks and 1st or hagi in midtown. both are very well priced and have great dishes. i wouldn't recommend sushi at any of these places, as that is not their strong point. for sushi and inventive appetizers, aki on w4th.

                                        french and caribbean influences. really fresh fish.
                                        cheaper great fresh fish alternative, more traditional: esashi.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: jungirl
                                          kenito799 Dec 8, 2006 01:26 PM

                                          Totto is my favorite restaurant in NYC, happy to hear more praise. They have opened a branch on the east side at 248 E 52nd St called Tory's, I am going there soon to see how it compares. My praise/recent review of Totto is here:

                                          1. re: kenito799
                                            Nosher Dec 17, 2006 02:49 AM

                                            Ooh yes. Totto. Totally.


                                            NYCnosh* http://nycnosh.com

                                        2. j
                                          jungirl Dec 9, 2006 05:13 AM

                                          very helpful! i will use this as a guide next time i go. what's the knee bone like? i've always been curious. i really didn't like the yuba shabu all that much. i thought it was too creamy and soy overload (and i love soy). it was interesting, but i didn't think it was worth the price.

                                          i'm always too full to have dessert, but i'll have to pace myself next time to try it!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jungirl
                                            kenito799 Dec 9, 2006 12:39 PM

                                            Knee bone has the grilled charred fat, mainly it's about a textural contrast with other chicken parts--chewy with sort of a crunch on the knee cartilage. They also serve a yakitori standby that we have never tried for some reason--the breast bone cartilage. I think I'll get one next time.
                                            I'll also try the rice porridge next time, that sounds good!

                                            1. re: jungirl
                                              bloor Dec 9, 2006 01:57 PM

                                              One that hasn't been mentioned here is Village Yokocho, upstairs on Stuyvesant St. I really like their yakitori. It's as good as I've had in Tokyo. Their okonomiyaki is good, too. Not too sweet. Lots of waving bonito flakes. Their buta no kakuni (pork belly braised with daikon) was a pale shadow of what I had in Tokyo, but still tasty. They have ocha zuke, mountain yam and carrot, great udon, and they're really reasonable. It's not anywhere near the experience of Aburiya Kinnosuke, but it's cheap and fun, a much better alternative to Yakitori Taisho over on St. Marks. As an added bonus, it's attached to Angel's Share, a great little cocktail bar.

                                              1. re: jungirl
                                                kenito799 Dec 16, 2006 05:52 PM

                                                Went to Tory's last night, and had porridge. Delicious!
                                                review at:

                                              2. k
                                                KeikoT Dec 9, 2006 03:56 PM

                                                I've been meaning to go to yakitori totto, and now you have convinced me to go! My Japanese bosses go to Riki (i think in midtown?) which is true izakaya food. I've been once and it was pretty solid, but izakaya food can be so greasy cuz it's to eat with beer... so I think it's on a different level than Aburiya and Sakagura and Sugiyama. And as for noodles, Soba Nippon has some awesome noodles. really liked their soba salad with chicken, when i went in the summertime.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: KeikoT
                                                  hungry_san Dec 9, 2006 04:29 PM

                                                  Does Riki serve Hayashi rice? It said on menupages that it did, but I didn't think so.

                                                  1. re: KeikoT
                                                    bloor Dec 10, 2006 02:09 PM

                                                    I've only been to Riki once when we couldn't get in at Aburiya and it was pretty gross. The food was greasy and unappealing and the service pretty indifferent. Anyone eaten at Ariyoshi? I pass it every day and I really want it to be good, but I've read that it's not. Any recent news?

                                                  2. nyufoodie Dec 12, 2006 06:15 PM

                                                    Sushi - Yasuda for high end
                                                    Kanoyama for mid-range

                                                    Izakaya - Sakagura for high end
                                                    Yakitori Totto for mid-range
                                                    Village Yokocho for cheap

                                                    I may add Esashi on Ave. A for reasonable, all around neighborhood spot. Has both decent sushi and cooked food as well. I like there Hamachi Kama and Pumpkin tempura.

                                                    1. c
                                                      charltonst Dec 12, 2006 08:14 PM

                                                      Sushi Sasabune is new and insanely good...from LA this is the first outpost in NYC. Best sushi I've had in NYC - though I haven't had Masa.

                                                      Also, NakaNaka...great authentic Japanese...my new favorite spot for a transporting experience...actually, I shouldn't have told you about this one - I still want to be able to get in!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: charltonst
                                                        thadp Jul 20, 2007 02:22 AM

                                                        Have to wholeheartedly disagree about Sasabune. It doesn't come anywhere near Yasuda (or a dozen other places for that matter), and in many ways is an embarrassment to the proprietor and NYC's growing reputation for quality sushi. Search the site if you want more details.

                                                      2. l
                                                        Lau Dec 13, 2006 08:07 PM

                                                        Try Soba Koh on 5th between 2nd and 1st ave for soba, its really good, plus they often have great appetizers...i personally think their cold uni soba is amazing

                                                        with the theme of the post, its not my overall favorite japanese restaurant in the city bc soba is not my overall favorite japanese food, but definately the best soba

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: Lau
                                                          Spoony Bard Dec 13, 2006 09:48 PM

                                                          Cold uni soba? Sounds incredible. Is the uni mushy or crisp? The latter sounds more appealing, but I'll take my uni any way I can!

                                                          1. re: Spoony Bard
                                                            kenito799 Dec 13, 2006 10:52 PM

                                                            hmm, I have never had crisp uni. I will second the rec for delicious uni/salmon roe cold soba at Soba Koh. It's a nice place, we also had a westernized crudo-style dish of horse mackerel with shallots and olive oil that was really good.

                                                            1. re: kenito799
                                                              Lau Dec 14, 2006 12:35 PM

                                                              its mushy (i.e. just raw uni), i've never had crisp uni either...i also had that horse mackerel appetizer, it was really good

                                                              generally alot of their sprecial appetizers are good; they sometimes have this japanese pumpkin dish, where its basically a boiled pumpkin in this very light soy sauce, its hard to find and when you do find it its usually not made right

                                                              1. re: Lau
                                                                Spoony Bard Dec 18, 2006 04:24 PM

                                                                I'd never had anything but mushy, delicious uni either until I had an uni special at Kiriko in LA recently. The texture was more like mirugai, definitely not what I was expecting!

                                                                EDIT: (I believe it was in the uni and scallop chawanmushi, and I don't believe they pulled a fast one on me, though it's possible. Maybe raw uni gets crunchy when cooked? Wasn't bad, just surprising.) http://www.kirikosushi.com/menu/

                                                                1. re: Spoony Bard
                                                                  kenito799 Dec 18, 2006 06:01 PM

                                                                  Cooked uni will firm up (like a hard-boiled egg) but I can't imagine how it could take on a firm crunch like geoduck. Could it have been fried? I think the subtle flavors would be lost, though.

                                                        2. v
                                                          vinominer Dec 13, 2006 10:29 PM

                                                          Chikubu on 44th between 5th and Madison.

                                                          1. b
                                                            bobstonia Dec 13, 2006 11:06 PM

                                                            Tomoe is No#1 place

                                                            not any other place even comparable and the price is reasonable

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: bobstonia
                                                              Lau Dec 14, 2006 12:37 PM

                                                              gone way downhill from its golden days...it was a great deal and used to be excellent quality, but there were always better sushi places

                                                            2. z
                                                              zwilliams Dec 16, 2006 11:58 PM

                                                              I really like Rai Rai Ken for Ramen. Very authentic. Well-balanced flavors both in the miso and the shoyu broths. Kim-Chi seems to be homemade and the various sides have always been well-executed (I esp. like the Cha-An). Gyoza there have paper-thin wrappings with green onion dominated fillings but still very good. This is where I eat when I want to be left alone and read.

                                                              For "Japanese" food I like that place on twelfth and 2nd ave on the Northwest corner. It changed ownership about two or three years ago and has since been serving very clean and authentic sashimi and sushi. They have a great selection of fish as well. The decor is as plain as bones, however.

                                                              On a side note. I'd love to find a good Kaiseki place in the city. I really like Koryo in San Francisco and have yet to find an appropriate place in NYC.

                                                              Thanks for your time,

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: zwilliams
                                                                vinominer Dec 17, 2006 04:38 PM

                                                                I seond Rai Rai Ken for the Ramen. I do not mind the sitting on a stool to eat great Ramen;but, thought others should know.

                                                              2. aryn Dec 17, 2006 02:03 AM

                                                                Honmura An is possibly one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Its on Mercer just off of Houston. The soba is delicious!

                                                                1. b
                                                                  Blumie Dec 17, 2006 02:32 AM

                                                                  What are people's views of Sushi Zen? I find their menu to be very interesting, but am not knowledgeable enough to make a claim of it being the "best all around."

                                                                  1. Jel212 Jul 20, 2007 09:00 AM

                                                                    I actually like the inexpensive Yakiniku West on 9th. I really love the food, and am impressed by the prices.

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