Kyo Ya Question
I'm (finally) going to be heading to Kyo Ya for the first time, and I'm interested in doing the kaiseki. My understanding is I have to alert them of this when I call.
I seem to recall reading there are multiple tiers of tasting. Is there anyone who has been there recently who knows what the tiers are, and the differences between them? Also, do I need to specify which one I want when I reserve, or just that I want to do the tasting, and I select the tier when I arrive?
I just did a la carte at Kyo Ya, and I have to say... not that impressed. Not worthy of a Michelin star, imho. I tried to sample as much of the menu as I could, so I ordered way too much. I will say though, that if one orders correctly here one can have a decent meal for a fairly reasonable price (ie, < $100 all in).
First the service. Very kind and gracious, but sometimes inattentive. From the time I sat down it took a very long time to take my order. Water sometimes went unfilled. Very long gaps between some courses, especially cooked ones. Service wasn't bad per se, but I expect a little better at this level.
More problematic was the food. By the way, they were out of a few items that I wanted to try. There were a couple nice dishes, but most were unremarkable. I ordered:
1) Smoked anago
2) Kinme and salmon trout sashimi
4) Miso-glazed cod
5) The famous sweet potato tempura
6) Pressed spanish mackerel sushi
7) Tajima beef maki rice ball
8) Heavenly pudding
The smoked anago was a nice start. It was served cold and had a pleasant smoky flavor. 4/10.
The sashimi was of high quality, but certainly not up there with a place like 15 East. However, this was one of the better courses of the night. 6/10.
The chawanmushi, which had eel and crab meat mixed in, was quite good, but also not as good as 15 East. 6/10.
The miso glazed cod - perhaps the best dish of the evening - was excellent. But not as good at the cod I had at Robataya a few weeks ago for $5 cheaper. 7/10.
The sweet potato tempura, served with himalayan salt and soy sauce, was also excellent. Maybe the second best dish of the night. 6/10.
The pressed sushi... the biggest disappointment of the night. Other than the novelty of seeing sushi pressed into this shape, I couldn't find anything particularly tasty or interesting about it. Whether it's authentic or not I don't know, but what's more important is that it tastes good. The rice was kind of bland except for a bit of seasame. The mackerel itself, just kind of ok. Very mediocre/borderline bad. 2/10.
The beef maki rice ball was an improvement. It was a thinly-pounded piece of tajima beef wrapped around sticky rice, about an inch thick and the length of a short cigar. Served hot with a sweet glaze. 5/10.
The heavenly pudding was essentially a creme caramel in a cup. It was fine, but again nothing special. 4/10.
I hate to keep comparing this place with 15 East because they are very different styles, but both the fish and the dishes that came out of the kitchen at 15 East were better, and so was the service. Not sure if I'd go back to Kyo Ya.
15 East is more haute than Kyo Ya. Here the dishes I was most impressed by (8/10 or higher) were:
- Shiratama/anmitsu dessert (the japanese black beans were the best I've had in NYC, the mochi was like clouds), and come to think of it, 15 East has a shiratama but is but a shadow of Kyo Ya's. This was one of the best desserts I've had all year.
- Pressed daily sushi (tasmanian trout with white kelp and shiso): perfect and uncomplicated and really tasty. I've had the pressed sanma (pike mackerel?) as well but that was much more challenging for my palate; I didn't love it but that doesn't mean it was bad.
- Red miso soup. A superior miso soup. Besides, it's red.
Several solid dishes - the New Zealand mussels were big and succulent (one even had a pea crab in it); the ruby shrimp tempura was nice; the house salad was very refreshing.
Yeah, the smoked anago was incomprehensible to me. It came with asparagus and a yellow sauce (mayo?).
It reminds me a lot of the style of cooking in Prune, which has been described as a "perfect neighborhood diner". Kyo Ya is like that; it's a low-key restaurant with relatively rustic dishes that are prepared well and use good ingredients. In contrast, 15 East is a little more celebratory--higher end, definitely pricier.
I also prefer the ambience of Kyo Ya, it's more warm and welcoming as a restaurant. It's a place that I would go back and just eat, have a leisurely evening. Meanwhile 15 East is, well, affected by Union Square "hip"; I've wondered how conducive such an environs is to appreciating the subtleties of sushi.
Yeah. For the most part Kyo Ya was decent. But Michelin star? Nah. I agree, the ambiance is nice there. My smoked anago also came with the asparagus and mayo-like sauce.
I think you can get out of 15 East for a reasonable price if you just order, say 1 or 2 things from the kitchen, do the sushi omakase ($60), and skip dessert. The dessert I had at 15 East (rice pudding tempura) was the only weak spot of the meal.
ETA: Keep in mind that both Kyo Ya and 15 East have 1 Michelin star. Pete Wells gave Kyo Ya 3 stars, and 15 East only has 2 NY Times stars, despite the fact that it's a superior restaurant.
I never compare 15 East with Kyo Ya. Two different types of food. 15 East I go for sushi. Kyo Ya for a kaiseki style meal.
The Chawanmushi at Kyo Ya, I've always found it superior to 15 East, as long as we are comparing. Actually, Kyo Ya's chawanmushi is the best I've had in Japanese restaurant in a very long time.
The pressed sushi at Kyo Ya is amazing. Both the Tasmanian Trout and the Mackerel, The mackerel does not just have a sesame taste and no flavor ,,Ever,,,, it is marinated and has many delicious flavors to it.
The sashimi is decent as Kyo Ya, it's not a highlight and can't really be compared to 15 East. Even in Japan, I was never wowed by the sashimi, it was always very good, but its the whole meal experience that is special about kaiseki.
The miso cod may have been good, I have never tried it at Kyo Ya. Miso cod is overrated in general. Everyone and everyone's brother makes it. There are better dishes to order at Kyo Ya I prefer to get Yuba with uni, always shiokara, seafood shutoan, satoimo potato croquette,kurobuta kakumi,
ebi shinjo, clay pot rice dish, and maybe whatever the special fried or grilled fish is, and the pressed aka Osaka style, aka Old style mackerel. . Different dishes than the ones mentioned except for the mackerel,,,Oh ,,I too love their red miso.
I would tell them which tasting you want. But i would go with the $150 tasting, the additional course is a good one.
I usually order ala carte and make my own tasting menu. When they first opened I was able to get the chef's kaiseki tasting without calling in advance. It is not much different than ordering ala carte. But as long as your calling,you may as well specify which tasting menu you want. You also should let them know if you want to sit at the chef's counter or at a table. I don't recommend sitting at the bar ( different than the chef's counter)
Thanks, and that's interesting - I didn't know they had a chef's counter. Is that a similar experience to Ko/Brooklyn Fare?
I guess I'm not even familiar with what the tastings are. From your post it sounds like the more expensive tastings are the same as the less expensive ones, just with added courses?
$150 is the longest/biggest?
Its not similar to Brooklyn fare in any way. Brooklyn fares chef counter is a big U , this is a little counter with maybe 5 or 6 seats at Kyo Ya. different feeling, different vibe. I pick Kyo Ya any day
Brushstroke proper has a very big chef counter. The kaiseki type food is excellent. Not quite as exciting as Kyo Ya, but nonetheless exceptional.
Pan, I agree, that one has to know the dishes and then order the ones that were best liked to create your own kaiseki meal. The chef is excellent and organizing what you pick to make a great progression of food. Progression is quite important to me. The pressed sushi at Kyo ya is really good. If you liked the sashimi, i think you would enjoy ( if you haven't tried it already) the pressed mackerel especially, tasting and feeling the difference from the head piece to the tail piece. Marvelous
For someone intimately familiar with the highest highlights of the menu, ordering a la carte might be similar to getting kaiseki, but to me, the kaiseki was a sublime experience and ordering a la carte was merely a more or less very good experience. I have been to Kyo Ya only twice.
120: base + sashimi
150: base + sashimi + zensai + stone grilled beef
I requested the 2nd tier kaiseki and it was nice, although not every course was a "hit". In particular a number of opening courses and the grilled duck—I've enjoyed a better magret duck breast just randomly searing it at home one day.
At 135 I find that Brushstroke's kaiseki is more "haute" (it is a Bouley place, after all), whereas Kyo-Ya's is more traditional. But Kyo-Ya's sashimi presentation is lovely. I checked out some photos and for $30 the zensai + beef supplement looks to be good value, so if I were to repeat this I would rather try their fullest offering.
All this said, Kyo Ya has a really good a la carte menu too, when I'm trying to decide on a nice dinner on short notice, that is often one of the places I end up considering.