For a Saturday early evening restaurant was empty except us and another table of two but considering that it's been only open for couple of months I did not take this as a negative sign. We walked in without a reservation and co-owner Omar from the Barbes fame greeted us at the door. Having dined at the Barbes at few occasions we had a small chat about their new venture.
There is a bar area as soon as you enter then on the way back there are few circular booths which looked nice and cozy but we opted to go to the back room and sit at the counter. When I try a new Japanese restaurant I'd like to see the chef in action, it tells you a lot about the chef as well as what to expect in terms of food.
We started with some edamame at $6 and a large bottle of sake from choice of three. Our server suggested we should try the Omakase which is the Chef's Tasting but being that this was our first visit here I decided on ordering a-la-carte to get an idea of the quality of the food. We continued with Japanese Style Red Snapper Ceviche (in yuzu white soy dressing) at $13.50, Lamb Tataki (seared Australian lamb loin, samjang miso sauce, chop garlic fries) at $15 and Tempura (three shrimp and various veggies) $14 as our appetizers.
At first sight menu looks somewhat limited compared to some other Japanese restaurants in same grade but don't let that food you because chef is more than happy to create anything you desire from sushi, sashimi or rolls as soon as he has the ingredients. We ordered some of the usual suspects from the Sashimi selection like; Kanpachi, Hamachi, Tuna, Salmon, Red Snapper, Fluke, Archtic Char, UNago and Anago. They were out of Uni (Sea Urchin) which happens to be one of my favorites and it is truly an acquired taste but it will tell you a lot about the chef and restaurant depending on the quality. Because Uni is extremely fragile it won't last too long in the fridge, after couple of days it will have a slightly bitter taste. So if places don't have it, that is because they don't expect to sell it before it goes bad but that's still better than serving is when it becomes "funky". We finished up our meal with a custom Dragon roll with Anago, Shrimp Tempura. Just when we thought we were done chef was nice enough for us to try some of his favorites; according to the chef their specialty is sushi/sashimi with various sauces. At first I was a bit cautious about this because I like to taste the fish itself with a tiny amount of soy sauce and wasabi but after trying the Toro with Avocado, Salmon with some type of yuzu dressing and the seared Snapper with garlicky, lemony dressing made me a believer that sometimes you simply have to think outside the box...
Finally, I decided that this is a restaurant I would like to visit again and I can easily put my trust in chef's more than capable hands by trying his tasting menu. On the way our co-owner Omar wanted to make sure that everything was to our satisfaction and if there was anything they can improve during this "soft opening period". My only suggestion was for them to offer a larger selection of bottled sake.
4 East 36th Street
(Between 5th & Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10016