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4 amazing Japanese restaurants in New York City

Today’s post was written by Gustavo Camargo. Gustavo is a reader of the blog and New York lover. I decided to invite him to write a blog post and he promptly accepted. The theme? Japanese restaurants in New York – he told me that he has a certain fascination with this cuisine.

Writing about  New York – and the United States – is to speak of multiculturalism. There are millions of foreigners in a country that prides itself – or, apparently, use to be proud  – on its immigrants. There are halal food carts, Chinese supermarkets, Italian trattorias, French bistros, Vietnamese places … It is possible that for over 150 uninterrupted days you will eat a different cuisine. Just imagine that there are more than 45,000 Japanese residents in the city. The country is ranked third, behind only Japan and Brazil, in absolute numbers of Japanese. This explains the strong Japanese presence on New York’s menus. On my last visit to the land of the Statue of Liberty, I was able to check out four totally different restaurants.

Yakitori Totto – the restaurant, or rather, isakaya – a Japanese term that translates into something like “bar” – takes the Japanese street food to another level. It is hard not to find an option that fits the most annoying person. The menu is extensive. There are more than two dozen starters and I highlight Yakumi Zaru Tofu, a cheese made from soybeans with a texture very similar to the Italian burrata, that melt in the mouth. Delicate and delicious. But, do not just stop with the starters, after all, the house is recognized by the traditional Japanese skewers. Start with a takoyaki, a kind of dumpling stuffed with powder. Follow with Negi pon, pork skewer with lightly sweetened ponzu sauce and the Yaki Nasu skewer, eggplant with miso paste. If you, like me,  are a fan of Gohan, the Japanese rice, order a Yaki Onigiri, a ball of grilled rice and sauce (choose miso). If you still have an appetite, Tsukune, a kind of Japanese chicken dumpling, is a wise choice. If you want to try something more challenging, choose Una-Jyuu: slices of eel lacquered in a slightly sweet sauce over rice. For drinking, the traditional sake or shochu. While the sake is fermented rice, the shochu is made by distillation. If you prefer a cocktail, order the fresh fruit shochu, which comes with sparkling water, shochu, and a fruit to be squeezed into the glass. It worths a photo or video. The price? Attractive. You will hardly spend, with drink, more than $80 per couple.

Address: 251 W 55th St – website.

Sushi On Jones –  weather was great the first time I went to Sushi On Jones. Which is good, because this is one of the five kiosks of the Bowery Market, which is open space.  The focus here is a routine like the one at the subway stations in Japan: a tasting of twelve pieces in 30 minutes. The reservation, made only through the archaic SMS, is required. There are only 6 seats outside the small kiosk. Time, though it seemed short, was accurate. We enjoyed the meal in a very good way, without any twist. In fact, we had time to taste two extra pieces. All exceptional. The menu, as I said, does not exist. You pay $50 for a tasting of pre-defined pieces. There are 12 units that surprise every arrival. Crab, shrimp, scallops, manatee, hedgehog, eel, and even Wagyu. All of course, freshly cooked – and finished with shoyu – and served from the counter to your plate. The best, of course, was the end. A nigiri with wagyu meat and hedgehog. In the end, make sure you finish the meal with something extra. Accept the hand roll – sort of temaki – or ask for the Big Mac, a nigiri that has wagyu meat, hedgehog, tuna belly, and another piece of hedgehog. It is not good. It’s heavenly. The world needs more Sushi on Jones.

Address: 251 W 55th St – website.

Ivan Ramen – The history of the restaurant, by itself, already worths the visit. But honestly, I will not go into that. Check Netflix and watch Season 3 of Chef’s Table. Then you will find the story and much more about Ivan Orkin, the owner of the house. With a lean menu and attractive prices ($16 for a bowl of hot ramen), the house boasts one of the best ramens I’ve ever tasted. And, by the way, there were not a few. A reservation here is required. Since the release of the new season of the series, the house is full and with a lot of lines. Skip the starters and quickly move your eyes to the “Noodles” menu. If you are looking for something without much power, choose Tokyo Shio Ramen. A bowl of chicken broth seasoned with dashi and salt with pork belly, eggs, mushrooms, and pasta. If you are looking for something more complex, choose Tokyo Shoy Ramen, which instead of seasoned with salt, it has soy sauce. But if your day has been tiring, if your legs are tired and your body needs to feel that you love it, do yourself a favor and ask for the triple pork. As its name suggests, it is a dive of soul and body in a bowl rich in pork flavors. To drink? Follow the tip from whoever serves you. The prices are reasonable compared to other places in Manhattan and it has good Japanese drinks and beers.

Address: 25 Clinton St – swebsite.

Baohaus – this place is really different from all others mentioned above. But, believe me, that does not make it worse. It is not exactly a restaurant. Consider it an “eastern fast food”. No reservations, no waiters. Ask. Pay. Take it. But, you do not know what a Bao is? Bao, or bun, is the new gastronomic trend. Small bread steamed and then stuffed. Believe. Worth it. Upon arrival, ask for a Chaiman Bao, which has pork belly, pickles, ground peanuts, lightly sweetened sauce, and a little coriander. The best? It costs only $ 4. After three of these, you will be pleased and be thanking me for the tip. It will be better if you be there on a day with some special Bao. On the last trip, there were buffalo wings. It was not good. It was amazing. If you are in Brooklyn at the weekend, you can also try them out in Smorgasburg. They have a tent with social work with ex-offenders. They even wrote a book about jail recipes.

Address: 238 E 14th St – wesbite.

Bonus!  Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong – If you read everything,  it is because you like it and want to visit different restaurants, correct? If this is your case, I recommend adding Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong to your list of restaurants to visit. It is hearty and delicious. Easy to understand why famous “Korean barbecue” houses do not stop appearing in the city. Do you want another reason to go? The restaurant is a stop of renowned chefs, as is the case of the inventor of the “cronut”, Dominique Ansel, and even the gastronomic critic Anthony Bourdain. If you do not trust me, trust them. The menu is simple and uncomplicated. You only choose meat. The waiter will come with more than a dozen sides, among them spicy tofu, kimchi, and a delicious pickle of what seems to be beet. The highlight of the place is Short Rib. If you are in a group, I recommend a Combo, which adds more meat.

Address: 1 E 32nd St – website.

Gustavo, thank you so much for this amazing post! 

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