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May 29, 2013 04:39 AM

Hidden Japanese restaurant in East Village

Kura Japanese restaurant, has no sign, no menu. I love secret places. Kyo Ya used to be like that when they opened and still has secret hidden toilets. Anyway,Kura is a fantastic restaurant. The vibe is very relaxed and Japanese. They have 2 omakase choices. One is an all sushi, the other is Kappo omakase which includes 5 cooked dishes and sushi.
Some of the dishes were tuna tataki which was delicious.
Tile fish with mountain yam very tasty. A summer style cold chawanmushi, A sliced duck dish also very good.
The sushi quality was top tier. The sushi chef is very skilled.The toro from Kyushu was incredible.
The restaurant is 6 months old. The service excellent. The place is small, so I hope it doesn't get too popular. I didn't see any tables , just a sushi bar. I was still hungry after the kappa omakase so opted to order more sushi. They have a good selection of sake.
I love this place and will be a frequent visitor.
It is on St Marks and Ave A.

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  1. I didnt find it to be a top tier place, but the sushi is decent for the price, the cooked food is great, and its a good replacement for Cotan. I found the rice to be good for a few pieces, the overly compressed ,then fine again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Shirang

      I ate here once, and it was exceptional. I will see if it has inconsistency as I return a few times. As far as "for the price" it cost me around $150 for the food, same as top tier. However, I eat more than most.

      1. re: foodwhisperer

        LOL that was my cost for 2 ppl after drinks. You do eat alot.

    2. Secret hidden toilets at Kyo Ya??? I still haven't been but that might have nudged it up a couple spots on my list.

      So what kind of food is the Kappo omakase? Is it a specific progression like a kaiseki?

      The only hidden Japanese restaurant I've ever been to was Tsukushi. The food was more "homey", and it was actually written up in NYT. Does anyone know if that place is still around and doing well?

      13 Replies
      1. re: fooder

        I went relatively recently to Tsukushi for some late-night shoyu ramen. I think it's a sleeper hit for that particular dish (though I also enjoyed their regular multicourse-but-homey menu about a year and a half ago). I'd be hard-pressed to name a definitively better shoyu ramen in NYC proper, actually.

        1. re: fooder

          Don't go to Kyo Ya for the secret toilets; go for the great kaiseki and civilized atmosphere.

            1. re: Sneakeater

              When I went there for a second time, I forgot where the toilets were, couldn't see the door, and had to be helped by the staff. The bathrooms' secretiveness is probably my least-favorite part of the restaurant. :-)

              1. re: Pan

                well Kura is secret in that there is no sign or menu outside and scaffolding further hides the place. The dishes are Kaiseki-like but more home style and there isn't as many dishes as in a traditional kaiseki restaurant. At the moment all i remember is the duck dish, similar in a way to Soba Koh, and the tile fish dish was similar to something Kyo Ya might make or perhaps Bugs. The sushi I particularly enjoyed , also they had good Shiokara. The staff is exceptional, in all regards.

              2. re: Sneakeater

                It was rather hillarious to see an elderly Asian lady who was a bit tipsy trying to find the bathroom one eve. Waitress pointed to "hidden" door (door blends right in w wall) and she thought the flower vase hanging on the wall was the doorknob! She grabbed whole vased and turned!!! You just had to be there!!!

            2. re: fooder

              Kappo is a little bit more fancier than izakya, but way more casual than Kaiseki.

              1. re: fooder

                I actually prefer Saka Gura (2.5 blocks away) to Tsukushi, and the former is even more 'hidden' than the latter.

                Tsukushi is still around and doing well -I go about twice a month and it's always full.
                Saka Gura -even though more camouflaged- has been discovered by the masses, and is thus more difficult to walk into without a rez.

                1. re: Phil Ogelos

                  Sakagura was discovered by the masses at least six years ago. Even then it was almost impossible to walk in without a reservation. Nothing is really camouflaged when the internet exists.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    But it doesn't have an awning, which Tsukushi does.
                    (Love your patronising tone, Pete; so tasteful!)

                    1. re: Phil Ogelos

                      No patronizing tone was intended. It's easy to read any text as anything if you want to take it that way. I was just adding to the discussion. For instance there is a supposedly hidden cocktail bar called The Room Down Below (or something like that) in the East Village, and one day I was near there and saw it in Foursquare, so even though it has no public face, anyone can know about it.

                    2. re: Peter Cuce

                      Never thought of Sakagura as really "hidden". It's just that their location is underground, which is kind of a novelty for New Yorkers. But they've been around 15 years or so, have a website, a fixed menu, serve lunch, hold sake and shochu events, advertise in the Japan free papers, etc. Not to mention turn over of kitchen staff. It's part of the Bon Yagi group. It's basically an upscale corporate izakaya...Tsukushi reminds me of the style of local, slightly downmarket, one or two-man kappo/ koryouri places you find in residential neighborhoods throughout Japan. It was written up a few years ago in the Times. I suspect if it wasn't for that, internet and all, it would be off the radar considerably more than it actually is now.

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Internet aside. If a restaurant doesn't have a sign, or like Sakagura is in the basement of an office building , or like Sushi Azabu which is downstairs from Greenwich Grill. Or Kyo Ya when they first opened had one sign "Open" that's all it said.
                        Kura you can walk right by it with no sign no window. That Korean Fried chicken place on 32nd St, no English sign and its on the 2nd or 4th floor, J&S Seafood on East Bway ( now has new name) had an entrance inside of a clothing store and you took an elevator up, All Good Things restaurant is in the basement of the market place,etc. Of course the internet makes places known, but I think when we refer to "hidden" here it just means not an obvious street level place with a window and a sign.

                  2. Thanks for recommending this place! I tried it tonight and it was amazing. I had the kappa omakase and for $65 pp I think it is a great deal. I was comfortably full by the end of the meal.

                    The dishes I remember were soup, monkfish liver, tuna? in an egg sauce, tofu egg custard, cold sliced duck, and sushi (if I remember correctly, tuna, scallops, red snapper, bonito, and a hand roll).

                    There is actually one table in the restaurant, but it's better to sit at the bar and be served by the chef directly.
                    I'd definitely come here again.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pravit

                      I went tonite mostly for sushi with a few side dishes. It was excellent.
                      I'm glad you enjoyed the food there.

                    2. Thank you for the heads up about this place. I enjoy your reviews in general and this place was exactly as you described.

                      We went last saturday, early around 6 and were the only people in the place. Both of us went for the sushi omakase and it was great.

                      If i recall started with a healthy portion of monkfish liver, followed by the sushi. I thought that his rice was very good and the quality of the fish was very good. My only complaint was that they served miso soup (very good i might add) in the middle of the sushi.

                      It started with lean tuna, then as follows, chutoro, Kohada, Fluke, Salmon, Sardine, Anago, Squid, Bonito (marinated), Octopus, Chutoro handroll.

                      I will be back soon. I found the chef very friendly and he made it a point to say that he would remember that I liked the sardine for next time. I like that and it will get me back sooner.

                      1. I ate here recently. Had the sushi omakase. I wasn't impressed. The sushi was average at best.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: silencespeak

                          Not too often one gets tuna from Kyushu,
                          Not too often one gets to eat Shako ( Mantis shrimp)
                          I've never seen Aka uni from IkI island in the US, only here.
                          It is more expensive than Hokkaido uni and more delicious.
                          I was very impressed with the sushi.

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            they had mantis shrimp? you almost never see that in the US, ive only seen it in some chinese restaurants a handful of times

                              1. re: Lau

                                I don't recall having mantis shrimp(shako) before at any other place. It was a nice treat. This place, Kura, seems to get fish from different markets than other sushi places. i.e. tuna from Kyushu, mantis shrimp

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  I've had shako at the usual spots (Ushiwakamaru, 15 East, Kanoyama)

                                  1. re: Ricky

                                    Wow, I've had live shrimp at Kanoyama, I wonder if those were shako. I don't think I've had shako at 15 east, just shire ebi, botan ebi and amaebi. But now i'm wondering if I actually had it or not.

                                    1. re: Ricky

                                      Had the shako tonite at Kura, right out of the plastic container, from Japan. It was just Ok, nothing fantastic. No aka uni due to typhoon in Kyushu. Shima aji and toro were highlights of tonite plus tuna kama cooked. Oh also ika stuffed with rice mushrooms and anago was delicious. Rice was good, perhaps a bit too dried out. Cohada sushi had a bone in it. I hate when that happens.
                                      Service amazing as usual.

                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                        'right out of the plastic container' ...
                                        no, look, you can get these 'live'

                                        1. re: TheDescendedLefticleOfAramis

                                          I bet the live shrimp i had at Kanoyama were those. These were grey and dead in a plastic container from Japan

                                    2. re: foodwhisperer

                                      very cool...look forward to trying this place