After one year of living in NYC I have discovered favorite Japanese restaurants in almost each of the major neighborhoods, however, I had yet to find any in the West Village. I watch movies in this area often and knew that I was not looking in the right places. One regular dinner friend introduced me to Rockmeisha, a cozy and down-to-Earth Japanese izakaya restaurant. The interior design is quite unique in that it replicates a style in Japan from the early 1900s to around 1926 – Taisho style. The era is considered the time of a liberal movement known as the “Taisho democracy”. You can read more about that time period here. Interestingly enough, there is a jukebox playing tunes that was used almost 70 years ago!
Rockmeisha offers a wide range of dishes as most izakaya restaurants typically do, and here they range from traditional Japanese to modern Asian fusion. I ordered one of my favorite things – potato salad – and it was so tasty that I ordered another. While this dish is a popular item in Asian restaurants these days, the style at Rockmeisha has an ingredient called mentaiko, which gives a nice, somewhat spicy taste that was a perfect complement to my beer. I then had buta kimchi (pork and kimchi stir-fry) as my main entrée. Like the mentaiko, the kimchi was a perfect accompaniment to the pork. Combined together this dish was impossible not to like!
Price: $200 including tip for 3 of us
Neighborhood: West Village
Dress code: Smart casual
Just like in the US, there are many restaurant chains in Japan – and I often miss some of them. Thanks to this blog I have discovered many Japanese restaurants in New York, but I still had difficulty finding a good place to dine by myself after work, usually late in the evening. Ootoya was my old standby when I lived in Japan and Singapore, and I was excited when I heard they were opening restaurants in NYC earlier this year.
Ootoya specializes in teishoku, or set meals that come with rice and soup. They have been making a name through the Japan and South East Asia food scene for serving simple, relatively affordable Japanese food. What makes Ootoya different from other Japanese restaurants is the wide selection of grilled meat and fish. When it comes to fish/seafood in terms of Japanese cuisine, sushi and sashimi are still popular amongst New Yorkers, however, I would say that grilled fish dishes are equally delicious Japanese food options.
When I visited Ootoya in Times Square for dinner after work one evening, an autumn limited menu grilled fresh sanma (Pacific Saury) / matsutake mushroom soup set was an option, and I could not resist ordering this combo. And this combination of seasonal choices is hard to find in NYC. Sanma is definitely best when it is grilled over a charcoal fire and lightly seasoned with a bit of salt or a light mixture of soy sauce and grated daikon, and this exactly the way Ootoya prepared it! A couple seated next to me ordered the same, but the waitress informed them they were already sold out for the day. So my timing was perfect. Or maybe I was just lucky and got the last one!
Price: $21 for grilled fresh sanma (Pacific Saury) Teishoku set
Neighborhood: Times Square
Dress code: Smart casual
They don’t take reservations, so be there early before the lunch/dinner peak crowd. There are plenty of counter seats available so dining alone is easy.