When it comes to serving food as a visual art-form, the Japanese are experts. Perhaps due to the fact that the main ingredients can be either cooked or raw, the plates are full of vivid colors. From the classical pieces of nigiri sushi, to the modern creations of Masaharu Morimoto, it’s hard for diners not to reach for a camera before their chopsticks.
Then there’s the Kaiseki.
Known traditionally as banquette food in Japan, Kaiseki can perhaps be described as the predecessor of modern day tasting menus and omakases. Small portions, multiple courses (sometimes over 10), carefully planned out, and delicately presented. I first experienced Kaiseki 7 years ago when I was taken to an upscale Japanese restaurant, although back then I did not fully understand Japanese cuisine like I do today. When I found out a discrete Japanese restaurant Kyo Ya won a Michelin Star for its Kaiseki menu, I had to go try it out myself.
While there is an a la carte menu, I am only interested in the Kaiseki, which needs to be ordered two days in advance! This gives the chefs ample time to do the prep work.
The restaurant is tucked discretely into the basement, with no signage and a stones throw from the bustling Japanese hotspots in St. Mark’s. When you reach your table, the content of your dinner is listed on a personalized menu. Sit back, and enjoy the choreographed culinary bliss. Here comes the serious food-porn.
Course 1 – Steamed tofu, similar to japanese steamed egg custards, but with a sweat and savory broth. This is like an amuse-bouche.
Course 2 – Marinated seaweed, clams and Chinese broccoli. The flavors of the clams was amazing.
Course 3 – Serious food porn. Two delicately wrapped rectangular pieces of sushi rice and uni/tuna.
Course 4 – Eel mousse in clear broth, with asparagus on top.
Course 5 – Peace Passage Oysters, I still need to find out where these came from. Somewhere from Washington State. This wasn’t listed on the menu.
Course 6 – Sashimi course, glorious. Tuna, Hamachi, Uni, Abalone…..
Course 7 – Grilled shrimp and fish, with a vinegar soup with seaweed to clear the palette.
Course 8 – A very moist pancake of egg and anchovies. Not my favorite ingredients, but still very good when put together.
Course 9 – Chilled chicken, tasted similar to drunken-chicken from Chinese restaurants.
Course 10 – Miso Soup. The flavors from the clams was divine.
Course 11 – A massive clay pot of rice with seafood (amazing sweet scallops). It was absolutely delicious, but we were already full. We both ate a bowl and boxed the rest to go.
Course 12 – Dessert, red bean soup with ice cream.
Cost of all this greatness? $125 per person. An incredible value in my opinion. Just the clay pot of rice and delicious scallops would cost over $40 in some restaurants.
I’ve always disliked the Michelin Guide’s view on Japanese food, but this time I thank them for introducing me to Kyo Ya. While there are better places for Sushi, Omakase, or Yakitori in Manhattan, from an overall perspective, Kyo Ya is hard to beat. I think I have a new favorite Japanese restaurant.
What does this rating mean?
94 E 7th St
New York, NY 10079