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Aug 17, 2012 08:44 AM

Kyo Ya Rave

Just wanted to put out a word of thanks to all the 'Hounds who recommended this place. What a delightful restaurant!
My daughter and I went for a pre-college send-off kaiseki meal. We chose the 10-course ($120) menu and got the following:

-Eel Arimani with crispy rice puff
-Noodle Like a Senryo Egg Plant with Uma Dashi
-Summer Truffle Okowa Wrapped with Bamboo Leaf
-Hamo Pike Fish in Kuzu Clear Soup
-Sashimi of the Day (included a fantastic, creamy monstrous-sized Washington state oyster, big eye tuna, kanpachi, fluke, saba, and tasmanian salmon)
-Grilled King Salmon with Summer Green Pepper
- Stuffed Peter Corn with Fish Cake in Bekko-an
-Muscat, Kuruma Shrimp & Rhubarb with Soy Milk Vinegar
- Rice Cooked with Berkshire Pork Belly and Mushrooms
Inaka Miso Soup and Pickles
- Black Bean Anmitsu with Dark Green Tea Jelly
Lychee Sorbet

The brief summary does not do justice to the complex, multi-layered flavors in the dishes we sampled, with a combination of herbs and broths which took our server 5 minutes to describe for each dish. The ambiance was peaceful and intimate, the servers were friendly, patient, and enthusiastic about the food. Altogether a wonderful experience. Go! Go often!

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  1. Sounds great, thanks for the report and glad you enjoyed your meal.

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      Kyo-ya is on my short list of restaurants when I want to amaze someone -- myself included -- with sophisticated deliciousness.

    2. You're absolutely right. It is difficult if not impossible to describe what makes everything taste sublime there, although the New York Times 3-star review did a very good job, in my opinion. Glad you enjoyed!

      1. I only had kaiseki once when I was a little kid, I've wanted to enjoy that again and Kyo Ya is on my list of places to dine before I relocate to Dallas. Thanks so much for the review, this reminds me I should make a reservation soon :)

        1. i had a very (very) mediocre solo meal there was my first visit, and the bartender acknowledged that they'd pretty much botched the meal (they comped the bad last course, offered me free wine and free dessert -- which i turned down, as i was anxious to get to another restaurant to eat a proper dinner before closing time)...i'll prob give it another shot sometime, but it was my more disappointing meals anytime sure it's better usually and that this was an off-night...

          10 Replies
          1. re: Simon

            Did you get the kaiseki or a la carte? I'm curious how they botched your meal.

            1. re: PorkyBelly

              A la carte...

              The oysters and the namban-zuke were delicious, but the goma tofu gratin was awful (bland mush that tasted like potato starch, w/ no discernible sesame or tofu flavor, and no lotus roots in it) her credit, the bartender had warned me not to get that dish but it sounded so good on the menu i ordered it anyway...

              The other problem was the super-slow kitchen that night: it was a weekday and the dining room was maybe 2/3rds full, and the bar where i was had two empty was 30 minutes after i ordered before the namban-zuke and the oysters arrived, at the same time: kind of a long time for two cold dishes, but as there were great, i was happy, albeit still hungry...then i waited and waited...a couple times they told me that the goma tofu dish was almost ready and would out in "three minutes" hour (!) after i'd ordered, i asked what was up, and the bartender offered me free wine and confessed that the kitchen had made the dish poorly the first time and was trying again...ok...when it finally arrived, i was mildly shocked by how bad it was and how it could possibly take 70+ minutes to make...the waitress took it off the bill without me even saying anything...

              I wanted to order more food but didn't want to wait another hour for a dish to arrive...and were already out of the pressed-sushi/ochi-zushi when i arrived at 9pm...

              I like the room, and the staff are nice, and i really think they were just having a very off-night in the i'll try it again, and i'll order better next time...

              1. re: Simon

                I have to wonder whether there was some terrible lack of staff in the kitchen that evening. Your experience reminds me of a tale of two meals my family experienced in Chablis in 2002. We went to a Michelin 1-star restaurant there for dinner, and it was charming and so good, we couldn't understand why it didn't have at least 2 stars. So we made a long detour on our way from Burgundy to the Loire Valley to have lunch there, got some of the same dishes, and they were nowhere near as good as they had been. My brother ultimately asked the woman at the front desk of the associated hotel what was up, and she finally admitted that the Sous Chef had quit and the entire line had left with him.

                I hope that what happened to you was only a freaky occurrence, whereby, for example, everyone was sick for a day or something. Hounds need to watch carefully and see whether the huge dropoff in quality you experienced is lasting or not.

                1. re: Simon

                  I had a similar experience at my first (and probably only) visit to Kyo Ya. DGF and I have wanted to go here for quite some time, so we were really excited. We got the 9 course kaiseki. The first 3-4 courses came out pretty quickly, but after that it was about 30 minutes between courses. And they're tiny courses. Since we were expecting a fairly large meal, we ate lightly throughout the day.

                  By the time the rice course came out, we were swooning with hunger... to the point where we were discussing pizza options on the way home. Part of the problem is that a large-ish group of six came in and sat near us, and that seemed to throw them off their game. The staff seemed to spend an ordinate amount of time with them... and given the nature of the restaurant the table of six were loud and drunk. If they had been in a pub, no one would have noticed them. But in a nice quiet place like Kyo Ya, they were over the top.

                  The reason I find the slowness of the kitchen inexcusable is we reserved the kaiseki meal 3-4 weeks in advance. So it's not like they didn't know we were coming. Maybe my impression of the food was colored by everything else, but for my money I'd go for the omakase at Soto in a heartbeat. I was really not that impressed. The rice dish was chicken and tofu. (yawn).

                  1. re: egit

                    I found the quantity perfectly okay, but I was wowed by 3 of the 10 dishes (the 2-part sashimi course, the matsutake thickened soup, the mussel rice with black miso and pickles). The other 6 were enjoyable, but not particularly memorable, and to nitpick I would say that some of the dishes were borderline flawed in design or execution, including one of the desserts which had semi-tough mochi (I was eating with my Asian folks, who were briefly disappointed just as an Italian would be by leaden gnocchi).

                    I didn't try to build expectations, so in the end we had a lovely and enjoyable evening (and again I was very glad to have at least seen those 3 dishes). But it leaves me still looking for a "life-changing" kaiseki; a tasting menu of a higher caliber would have stronger dishes to support those 3/10 home runs.

                    Aburiya kinnosuke does a dinner omakase for $100 minimum, and that was definitely not as good, me and my cousin both felt (but their lunches are really great).

                    On the other hand, ordering a la carte is very nice, and I'd like to go back to do that again. It reminds me of the cooking done at Prune or even lunch at Jean Georges—accessible, comforting food that is prepared very well, without complicated flavors. The house salad and one of the desserts were really really wonderful. Dinner at Robataya is in the same price range, but Kyo-ya is better.

                    It's perfectly good as a 1-star Michelin (New York) restaurant. I haven't tried Soto, but I've heard positive things said about it. Meanwhile for an extra special Japanese dinner I find more success at 15 East, Sushi Yasuda, and of course Kajitsu.

                    1. re: calf

                      calf -- have you tried Sugiyama?

                      I no longer live in New York and have not tried Kyo-Ya yet (though it's on my list, and something seems to stymie the effort each time I return).

                      But Sugiyama is a real favorite of mine. A glorious, long, filling, delicious multi-course meal.

                      1. re: pauliface

                        calf: To be clear: I'm recommending Sugiyama as a Kaiseki alternative that you may prefer to Kyo-Ya, given what you've said above.

                      2. re: calf

                        Kyo Ya is kaiseki style dinner. All dishes are prepared excellently and from a kaiseki standpoint they are excellent.( but not anywhere near as good as in Kyoto,Japan). Robataya is nothing similar and is half the price. I don't know why you say they cost the same. Robataya is excellent for what it is, fresh robata grilled food plus some other great dishes. 15 East is all about the sushi. Soto IMNSHO is not in the same league as Kyo Ya or 15 East.

                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          I guess what I can say then is that I don't like kaiseki dinners... at least not in November. I went to Kajitsu a couple of years ago in November and wasn't wowed by it either (OMG! MORE TURNIPS!). Kyo Ya's sashimi course was definitely the best part of the meal. In fact they offered a pre-sashimi oyster which was really excellent.

                          I believe Soto's strength is the prepared dishes, not necessarily the more traditional sushi and sashimi.

                          1. re: egit

                            Sugiyama is well-paced and there is no *way* you will leave hungry. And while their sashimi course is both beautifully presented and delicious, the cooked dishes are fantastic.

                            Fun fact: In Japanese, "tsukuri" is the word for the sashimi and/or sushi course of kaiseki, stemming from the verb "to prepare" because, I guess, making this things is a big deal. So to contrast prepared dishes against sushi/sashimi would probably sound pretty funny in Japanese.

                            Disclaimer: My Japanese is only rudimentary, so what I said may indeed be incorrect. Hopefully a true Japanese speaker can either confirm or correct.

              2. We agree that Kyo Ya is a superb restaurant that is vastly underappreciated. To our knowledge, there are really 5 great Kaiseki restaurants in NYC: Brushstroke, Kyo Ya, Rosanjin, Nadaman Hakubai and Sugiyama. (I'm assuming Kajitsu doesn't qualify, although it is of course related). Where would you rank Kyo Ya in that list vis-a-vis the others?

                Argus Guide

                5 Replies
                1. re: ArgusGuide

                  How is Kyo Ya, which recently got a 3-star rave from the Times and gets a lot of love here, vastly underappreciated? I had one of the best meals ever there, but I don't think it's underappreciated at all.

                  1. re: Pan

                    Well, it is ranked 1 star below Kajitsu in the Michelin guide, and I've wondered what's up with that. Of course, naturally chowhounders and Michelin critics have different value systems. No, I have not been to Kyo Ya, and I haven't found a reason to go (yet).

                    1. re: Pan

                      The 3-star Times review was only 4 months ago and long overdue. Before that, the Times had never reviewed it, despite it having been open 5 years, excepting a 9-sentence blurb they posted when it opened (the NY Mag review is even shorter). The restaurant doesn't have a website and isn't on OpenTable. As a result, my experience has been that the vast majority of New Yorkers haven't even heard of it. People that take a strong interest in NYC restaurants are obviously an exception to that generalization, which includes the posters on this forum.

                      1. re: ArgusGuide

                        Points taken. However, it is not large enough to accommodate much more interest, is it? My feeling is that Kyo Ya was quite content to cater to word of mouth and exist as a semi-secret restaurant, tucked away in a corner even people who live on the block can walk by hundreds of times without really knowing what it is.

                        1. re: Pan

                          I agree with you that I think they are largely content to cater to word of mouth and exist as a semi-secret restaurant. I don't know whether it is too small to accommodate more interest - there are plenty of other restaurants (Kurumazushi and tasting counters like Masa, Ko, Atera, Chef's Table) that are similarly small but with significantly more interest. Of course, those places are a pain to get a reservation now. But all the times I have eaten at Kyo Ya (which predated the Times review, so I don't know what it's like now), there were always empty tables.