Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep-fried. Even though it is one of many popular Japanese dishes, it is very hard to find a Japanese restaurant that serves exceptional Tempura. I believe it is because Tempura requires skills to prepare – not just an ability to use a deep fryer! Matsui opened its door in the summer of 2015, and it is the first authentic Tempura restaurant in New York. Recently they started a lunch service on weekdays, and I was excited to try their lunch specials with two of my Japanese friends. Matsui has become one of the most popular and high-profile restaurants in NYC and recently entered the Michelin star club.
The interior of the restaurant is perfectly designed and seemed as if we were in a high-end restaurant in Tokyo. The lunch course included a bowl of noodles, a chawanmushi, and tenju (Tempura over rice) and dessert. The tenju is a dish with an assortment of seafood and vegetable tempura on a bed of rice. I could really taste the freshness of the ingredients, and I particularly liked the shrimp Tempura – crispy outer coating with a juicy, flavorful taste inside. The other courses were memorable, too. The starters were a cup of chawanmushi and a cold buckwheat noodle cup with a hint of yuzu, tempura flakes, grated radish, scallion, and dried bonito on top. The dessert was small plate of Tempura Ice cream and soy milk pudding.
I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to eat authentic tempura!
Price: Lunch $40; Dinner, three different levels of omakase $140-$230
Neighborhood: Murray Hill
Dress code: Business casual
Dinning alone: Yes, counter in front of chefs and separated bar area
Last holiday season I introduced Izakaya Riki at Midtown as a great option for a holiday party, and I received some feedback from readers that they could not get reservations. I was not surprised, though, because the holiday gathering at an izakaya restaurant has become one of the popular options for New Yorkers over the last few years. I would like to introduce another great, authentic izakaya in the area as a choice for this winter season: Udon West. As you can imagine from the name, Udon West is a Japanese noodle restaurant and located just few minutes from Grand Central Station. My observation is that most of the patrons are Japanese locals and expats – something that is typically a good indicator of the authenticity.
Udon noodles are the main signature dish here, and they offer over 15 different styles of udon; you can add toppings from various selections that are equally numerous. I love their shrimp tempura udon that tastes like what I used to eat in Japan. I would suggest ordering several small dishes from the menu (note: some are posted on the wall). If you are not sure where to start, as your server for recommendations – with over 100 different options available, there should be something available for just about anyone’s palate.
I went to Udon West with colleagues after work and all were first-timers for izakaya and one person surprisingly had never eaten at a Japanese restaurant. Each of us picked our own choices for appetizers and shared them. I ordered minced-katsu which is a breaded and deep-fried ground beef cutlet, or basically a savory and crispy meat cake. We ordered several more of these as the group discovered how delicious they were! For my entrée I ordered a curry dish with a “topping” of fried chicken pieces, or karaage. I have to say that while there are several Japanese curry restaurants in NYC, this particular curry was the best I’ve ever eaten in the city. Highly recommended!!
Price: $40 per person for this gathering
Neighborhood: Midtown West
Dress code: Casual
Dining alone: Yes, but maybe good place for a group gathering