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Asian-Fusion/Sushi Options?

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as usual, my friends have tapped me to choose the restaurant for someone's birthday celebration. unfortunately, the guest of honor has made a request that's not really within my area of expertise, so i'm counting on my fellow Hounds to help protect my rep as the food expert of the group!

and i quote:
Me: "if you want me to choose the restaurant, i at least need to know what kind of food you want and which neighborhood you'd prefer."
Him: "nice but reasonable sushi or something Asian-fusion-y anywhere south of midtown."

oy.

forget the "reasonable" part for now, because he's not paying anyway ;)

of the group that's going (early- to mid-30's M&F, anywhere from 4-8 of us, head count hasn't been finalized), i'm honestly the only Chowhound. and Mr. Birthday is a bit of a partier, so a traditional sushi bar isn't going to work. he likes his cocktails, and will definitely prefer a hip, sceney vibe. Buddakan was my first instinct, but i sifted through a zillion past threads to get a sense of other options and there really doesn't seem to be a consensus on food, nor is there much feedback about the atmosphere at other places.

he just moved here from Southern California and has been to Mr Chow in LA several times, so that's out. i'd like to avoid Koi because i've been to the LA location numerous times, plus it's not "south of midtown" - nor is Asia de Cuba, which we've both also been to (and most of the food is pretty unremarkable). Tao isn't an option because the food sucks.

so at this point, i'm looking at Buddakan, Megu or Spice Market. maybe Sushi Samba, but i'm not a huge fan. my only other consideration was Chow Bar, but i haven't been there in about 10 years, and IIRC, it's small and not all that high-energy.

Edit: does anyone go to Bond St anymore? i haven't been there at years, and i wasn't bowled over by the food back then.

has anyone been to the newly-opened Ajna Bar (formerly Buddha Bar)?

thoughts? i could really use some help on this one, and the clock is ticking because of course he left it for the last minute - it's next Friday, the 18th.

TIA!

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  1. You didn't mention Nobu? I prefer Nobu to Megu personally.. Nobu fits most of your requirements and the pricing is better than Megu as well. I like Nobu scene more than Megu, although I haven't been to a Nobu in a year now. I don't like Spice Market (didn't Bruni crush restaurant in past few months?), but its in the young Meatpacking district I guess.

    Other ideas, Kittichai, Fatty Crab, Asiate, Blue Ribbon Sushi, Morimoto

    5 Replies
    1. re: shanshan

      i *completely* spaced on Nobu, probably because i've eaten at the LA one so many times. but i'm not sure if he has, so that's definitely a consideration. thanks for the reminder!

      i didn't like the things i read about Kittichai so i crossed it off the list. i also think the food may be a bit too "Thai" for him.

      the menu at Fatty Crab is unfortunately too "scary" for some of the less adventurous palates in the group (including Mr Birthday).

      i nixed Morimoto after reading several comments that it was overpriced and underwhelming (i think i read some negative things about the service there too).

      and i know the food at Spice Market gets a lot of hate, but then i found some positive CH reviews and got totally confused!

      what's the atmosphere like at Blue Ribbon Sushi? i've actually never been there.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Blue Ribbon Sushi's vibe is going to be too low key (not sure they take reservations for any size group BTW) if you're looking at Morimoto and Spice Market. Morimoto definitely has a very sceney look/decor.

        What about the place inside the Maritime Hotel, Matsuri?

        1. re: kathryn

          i've heard that the food at Matsuri is good, but everything i've read about the vibe indicates that it's a pretty quiet, low-key place. is that wrong?

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            My friend who recommended to me said it was pretty flashy but the food was actually good. I've never been to Matsuri, but I've been to that hotel and it is in a trendy neighborhood and the patio/back garden, and hotel's Highline Ballroom seemed pretty trendy to me.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Matsuri's foood is very good but the place is pretty low key. Big enough place, but I don't know if I see it for a big group.

      2. Spice Market, Buddakan, and its ilk gets a big "meh" from me. Perhaps Momofuku Ssam or Noodle Bar? If you have 6-8 people, the Bo Ssam at Ssam Bar or the fried chicken dinner at Noodle Bar would work nicely, assuming there are no vegetarians or vegans. Both are trendy and popular, while serving great food.

        And regardless of what you read, Spice Market is still bad.

        2 Replies
        1. re: hcbk0702

          crap. the fried chicken at noodle bar would be a great call except that i'm gluten-free! Asian fusion is difficult enough for me as it is, but that just won't work.

          and yes, i've decided to strike Spice Market from the list. thanks for the nudge ;)

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I am certainly no expert on gluten free dining, but I would think that if you were going to reserve the fried chicken dinner at Momofuko they might be able to accommodate your needs. Could be worth a phone call!

        2. I'll venture some more:

          Japonais (I went once and didn't like, but since then friends said they liked and said it was sceney)
          Bond Street (used to be a date spot for me 5-6 years ago.. downstairs is more sceney but less seats))
          Jean Georges (too fine dining? "fusion"...?)
          Public (is this stretching asian fusion? Nolita area is hot area -- i never ate at Public for dinner though)
          Vong (I've never been, but throwing it out there)

          2 Replies
          1. re: shanshan

            I would hesitate to call Jean Georges fusion, although there are certainly strong Asian influences on the current menu and JGV has had a long and successful history of using Asian ingredients. Le Bernardin has a similar number of Asian-inspired dishes on its menu, and I don't think anyone would call it fusion, though it isn't traditionally classic French either.

            1. re: hcbk0702

              agreed

          2. It's been a while, but we enjoyed Safran in Chelsea, described as Vietnamese/French fusion. Maybe someone who's been there recently could comment.

            http://safran88.com/

            1 Reply
            1. re: fern

              It's nice enough. I think more viet than french. but the vibe is fairly low energy. If you don't need sushi, i would also encourage you to look at Public. that was my first thought, in fact.

            2. Try Aja Asian Bistro on 6th Ave

              www.thelunchbelle.com

              9 Replies
              1. re: LeahBaila

                Aja is not very good...which is probably why it is closed. I've had limited experience with the food at Pranna, not yet a full dinner, but they have great atmosphere and I have generally enjoyed what I've eaten there and I do love that they take the "pan-" portion of pan-Asian seriously. Perhaps someone with more extensive experience can comment.

                1. re: JungMann

                  pranna is delish..when did aja close?

                  1. re: smokeandapancake

                    Aja closed a couple of months ago.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      i just passed by aja and it was open..

                      1. re: smokeandapancake

                        Yep, they just changed the name...same owners.

                        www.thelunchbelle.com

                        1. re: LeahBaila

                          i didnt even take note of the name...what is it?

                          1. re: smokeandapancake

                            I believe it's "Amber," if I'm not mistaken.

                            www.thelunchbelle.com

                            1. re: LeahBaila

                              amber is the name of some fusion-y joint in murray hill as well, yes?

                              1. re: bigjeff

                                yea there are a bunch of ambers

              2. just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your help! and shanshan, i *really* appreciate that you reminded me about Nobu...i decided on Nobu Next Door. Mr. Birthday has never been to any of the locations so he's actually really excited about it. we can go a little early, have a cocktail and wait for a table without having to worry about reservations. perfect.

                thanks again!

                1. just posted a review of our experience at Nobu Next Door, which i then asked the mods to remove after receiving insulting comments about it from a fellow CHer. the short story is that i thought the food & the service left quite a bit to be desired. the birthday boy seemed pleased with the overall experience but not thrilled with his food. based on this experience i wouldn't go back. but i do appreciate everyone's help and suggestions - at least now i know! ;)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    Can you provide more detail on the experience? I haven't been in a while (and last time I went was to Nobu 57) but detailed feedback would be appreicated.. I almost put it back on the list to go again until I just read your post

                    1. re: shanshan

                      sure - i had posted a long review but after another CHer slammed me and questioned my character for posting it i had the mods remove it. it ended up only being Mr. Birthday & me because the other two were both sick & had to cancel. the short version: after reading some recent reviews and hearing from friends that the quality has fallen considerably, i didn't want to order sushi/sashimi so i opted for a cooked dish instead. i had the scallop, squid & vegetable kushiyaki skewers with anticucho sauce. (my options were somewhat limited because i can't have wheat/gluten or soy and the kitchen would have had to make too many modifications to most of the other dishes that appealed to me.) my dish ended up being inedibly salty, and when i told our server he walked away without saying a word - didn't acknowledge the issue in any way, let alone apologize or offer to get me another one. i should have taken it up with the manager but Mr. B gets really uncomfortable with that sort of thing and he looked worried that i was about to make an issue of it, so i just ate a few bites of it and left it alone. he had the Creamy Spicy Crab dish, said it was pretty good, but didn't even finish it, and at 6'3"/220, there's just no way he was full from what he ate. then he insisted he didn't even want dessert for his birthday, so i got the feeling he was just "over" the whole thing too. the other issues were the hostess - who was beyond snotty, and the fact that the portions were offensively small.

                      maybe it was an off night, and as i said, i really should have spoken to someone about the problem with my food. but given the crappy service and the fact that his dish wasn't very good either, coupled with the negative feedback about the sushi, i wouldn't go back. YMMV, and it's certainly possible that both the service and food are better at the regular Nobus (as opposed to "Next Door").

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        thanks for following up, sorry that you experienced some foolishness on the boards.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Thank you for the report. It is a shame service was that bad. Such behavior is inexusable in any environment, let alone in the current economic climate. I hope that waitor does not have the attitude that gratuity is a given and the restaurant has not gone complacent.

                          On a separate note, I am a little like Mr. B. I hate confrontation and it does make for uncomfortable outcomes. Sometimes management/waitors pick up on a failed dish etc. and when they make it up to me I am very appreciative and do so in a tip. I find myself never docking waitors enough for bad service. I guess I am part of the problem now that I think of it.

                          1. re: shanshan

                            bigjeff - it wasn't the first time, and i doubt it'll be the last. it's ok, i'm a big girl, i can handle it ;)

                            shanshan - i agree that behavior/service like that is unacceptable in *any* establishment, and yes, particularly during a time when fewer people can afford to dine out at all, let alone at high-priced restaurants. i've had excellent food and service at Nobu in Los Angeles/Malibu (i lived out there for many years), so this was even more disappointing to me. it left a sufficiently bad taste in my mouth to deter me from ever going back, but as i said, maybe they were having a bad night, so perhaps you can do a little more sleuthing about others' experiences before writing it off based on my account.