Mitsuwa Market Place is a Japanese grocery mall that sells Japanese products ranging from food and appliances to books and cosmetics.
Wateishoku Kaneda is one of several food court vendors. Wateishoku (Or teishoku) means “fixed menu” and the entrée often comes with side dishes such as pickled vegetables and miso soup. Together with bento boxes, teishoku was introduced to the US and has become popular among Japanese food lovers. Kaneda offers a popular selection of teishoku. I ordered Tonkatsu Teishoku. I honestly did not have high expectations in terms of quality, however, the Tonkatsu was surprisingly thick and delicious – all for $10.
There is a bus route several times a day from Port Authority. It is a good half-day trip from Manhattan!
Price range: $10-$15
Neighborhood: Technically located in NJ, but good view of Manhattan
Dress code: Casual
Dining Alone: No concerns, very comfortable
Take Out: Yes
Hiding in a basement of an East Village townhouse, this one may be a little challenge to find. No signs are in front, and it seems there is no intention to welcome first timers like me. I found it by spotting a pair of chopsticks between the brown window blinds. This is similar to Kyoto where restaurants often are hidden within a busy marketplace.
I ordered sake, Koku Ryu, as a starter, which is hard to find even in Japan. The menu was like a treasure box of Japanese authentic cuisine. I chose assorted sashimi (5 or 6 pieces), Kurobuta Kakuni slowly cooked pure berkshire pork belly, Black Cod Miso Glaze, and rice with miso soup. I believe that today’s highlight is having super fresh sashimi with Koku Ryu, Sake from Fukui. It is famous for best match with seasonal seafood.
Price: $117.58 for my selection
Dinning alone: Slightly uncomfortable, but counter is available
Dress code: High-end casual
Reservation: Strongly recommended
Atmosphere: Cozy modern Japanese architecture with warm woods. Quiet environment, excellent for an anniversary or special occasion. You can enjoy “Kyoto” feeling.
While I was walking toward Penn Station, I stumbled across a café with a bright white façade. For some reason I immediately sensed this was a Japanese restaurant, even before seeing the menu or name. I couldn’t stop myself from entering, and except for the size, all features of the restaurant reminded me of Tokyo.
They offer a combination plate at a reasonable price. One can select two Omusubis (rice balls) from a variety of savory selections along with a soup made from different, innovative miso-fusion recipes. I got Kinoko Omusubi and Beef Oinari-San from Omusubi selections. Kinoko Omusubi contains pieces of mushrooms and zucchini in soy tasted rice. Beef Oinari is a sushi filled into deep fried tofu, flavoured with beef shigure-ni. I saw more unique Omusubis on the menu such as Italian, Hawaiian. It seemed all sold out by the time I was there; I definitely want to try these next time.
Price: $10-$20 per person, Neighbourhood: Midtown
Dress code: Casual, Dining Alone: Comfortable, no concern
Cleanliness: 5 stars, outstanding
Take out: Yes
In my opinion, there are three types of Japanese restaurants outside of Japan. First is an authentic one operated and managed by native Japanese chefs. Most of these restaurants originated to serve Japanese expatriates, embassy personnel, and other citizens living abroad. However, as Japanese food entered in to the main stream and gained popularity, it attracted more and more local food enthusiasts. Most dishes offered authentic, high quality ingredients similarly offered back at home.
Second is contemporary Japanese fusion. This category is typically run by chefs whose mission is to deliver innovative food strongly inspired and influenced by Japanese culture. I personally love these restaurants because it is so fun to see their ideas and expressed creativity. When I lived in Texas, I often dined at Uchi Restaurant run by Tyson Cole. I really enjoyed his interpretation of Japanese traditions that were converted into contemporary delicious recipes. For example, Cole’s Maguro sashimi and goat cheese was one of my favorite appetizers – and this combination won’t easily be found anywhere in Tokyo!
The third category is a general “Asian Grill and Sushi” type of restaurant, and this style can be easily found all over the world. The majority of this group started as offsets of other Asian restaurants, such as Chinese, where Japanese dishes were simply added to menus for better profits. Sometimes I ask myself what are the ingredients contained in my ordered food, and how does the restaurant handle both raw seafood and woks in the same kitchen, as sashimi-grade seafood requires sensitive and delicate handling.
Wherever I lived in my life thus far, I was always asked which Japanese restaurants are the best. Even though the short answer should be “it depends”, I always try my best to give a personalized answer based on the need (first date, business dinner, reunion with a close friend, and so on). I tried to visit as many authentic Japanese restaurants in cities where not only could I discover delicious food, but also share my knowledge and experiences. In fact, this is how I started my quest to identify the best culinary finds!
Now I live in NYC – a place that offers a variety of food from around the globe – and am excited to explore and share reviews of many different Japanese restaurants.
NinjaNYC started this blog to introduce good Japanese cuisine in New York City.