Another tip-free Japanese restaurant I found is Hakata Tonton. Tonton basically means pork dishes in a cute sounding way, and Hakata is one of the biggest cities in Japan located in Kyusyu Island. Hakata is also famous for Tonkotsu soup ramen.
I originally thought this was a ramen restaurant, however, I learned that Hakata Tonton specializes in Japanese hotpots with pork broth. Upon entering I noticed that every table ordered the hotpot – something that seemed very unique to me outside of Japan.
I dined alone and explored the different options available on the menu. I ordered potato salad with spicy caviar that was absolutely delicious. I love traditional Japanese potato salad, but this combination with caviar was unquestionably enjoyable. But in keeping with my original motivation to try this restaurant, I ordered Hakata-style stir-fried ramen noodles served on a bed of teppan, something that I have not found elsewhere in NYC. The dish was equally delightful!
Another unique point: like other well-known restaurants such as Ippudo and Hide Chan which originated in Kyushu, Hakata Tonton is promoting this type of Hakata style as a “Southwest Japanese” variety. I am glad to see this as New Yorkers and others are able to learn that Japan has a vast array of regional specialties.
Price: $29.4 for my selection, no tip required
Neighborhood: West Village
Dress code: Casual
Dining alone: Counter available, but I would suggest coming with others to try the hotpot
Takeout: yes, even for hotpot dishes
A follower recently asked why I have not yet introduced any sushi restaurants in my blog. To be honest I have not sought out sushi restaurants in NYC – I may order sushi as part of a meal in other restaurants — but I have not looked to find pure, sushi-only venues here in the city. And that is mainly because I lived near Tsukiji in Japan (for those of you unfamiliar, read more about it here) and I am confident that I cannot find any restaurant that can replicate the level of quality and/or experience of Tsukiji. When living in Tokyo I would stop by the market and have fresh sushi for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at one of small sushi bars located around the market. I look forward to visiting Tsukiji every time I return home for my fix of the world’s best sushi.
With that being said, Sushi Yasuda is my first premium-category sushi restaurant to try in NYC. Everyone says they serve the best quality of sushi and sashimi in the U.S., however, in this entry I wanted to focus on the way they uphold and preserve the true Japanese sushi bar culture. The ‘normal’ expectation in a typical sushi bar is to simply enjoy the food – nothing more – basically eat and leave. No long after-chats with friends or endlessly surfing the web on a smartphone. This style could come as a shock to those high-maintenance New Yorkers who expect to linger after a meal. And I must also mention that Sushi Yasuda follows the tradition of not expecting customers to pay tips when settling the bill.
And even though I said I wanted to focus on the culture, I would be remiss if I did not state that the lunch combo set (with miso soup and choice of nigiri and maki) is very reasonably priced and equally as good as Tsukiji.
Price: $30 for my selection, and remember, no tip required
Dress code: Casual/Business casual; suggest avoiding shorts/sandals for dinner
Dining alone: Comfortable. Great counter serviced by a sushi chef