Why do I love Japanese cuisine so much? Maybe after New York, I should find a job in Tokyo. I’m even listening to the Nujabes’ Mellow Beats, Friends and Lovers CD while writing this entry (awesome CD btw). Anyways, I’ll make do with what I have in New York for now.
A couple of friends and I had decided to go to Kyotofu in Hell’s Kitchen for dinner before catching a movie. The facade of the actual restaurant is very low key, with no clear signage. However, walking in, you get a sense of the place being your average New York coffee shop/bakery and not actually a restaurant. We showed up around 6pm on Friday night without any reservations and were promptly seated in their minimalistic contemporary dining area behind the kitchen.
I guess the chef was surprised that I was taking pictures, gotcha!I would like to take everyone on an amazing 13-course journey that I had at Kyotofu. Even though I don’t really know if they’re considered courses or tapas, but for the sake of awesomeness I’m declaring that they be known as courses.Kyotofu offers an Otsumani Sampler, which you may choose 4,6, or 8 items from a list of 8 at $4 per dish. Of course me being me, I chose all 8 of them.
Soon after snapping that shot, the hostess had decided to dim the lights of the dining area making a more intimate scene. Appropriate since it was Valentines Day weekend, but terrible news for somebody that’s there to just document and take pictures of food. This sparked me to do something that I have never done before. I had asked the hostess if I could bring my food out to the bar area to take pictures in the lighted area. She kindly obliged and even turned the lights brighter! What mind-blowing service. It was also embarrassing being at the bar area, when groups of diners walk in and see you taking pictures of your food and then running off to go eat it.
Oh well, the life of a food blogger. Back to the food.
Maybe it’s just a natural impulse to start with the salad, because that’s exactly what I did. Their salad consisted of a combination of Shimeji and Shiitake Mushrooms over a bed of Arugula, topped with shaved Parmesan. The rich arugula taste was balanced with the mellow taste from the warm mushrooms and tied together with a subtle vinaigrette. Was it worth the $4 price tag per dish, probably not. Is it just me, or when you see a dish like this, you automatically think IKEA SWEDISH MEATBALLS! Weirdly, I was actually disappointed that it didn’t remotely taste like the meatballs at Ikea. The Spicy Tsukune (Chicken Meatballs) were actually topped with a Yuzu Pepper Sauce (not gravy) and paired with a Kyuri Cucumber (not lingonberry). To be honest, it tasted like the meatballs you buy in a giant bag at your local supermarket topped with the peanut sauce you eat satay’s with. I might just go to Ikea this weekend and try to grab an early bird special. Continuing on, you discover what seem to be poorly wrapped Nigiri sushi, and you’d be right. The Red Snapper Nigiri were pieces of House Cured Red Snapper wrapping a Citrus Dill Rice. The non-sushi brown rice was a nice effort, but the unfamiliarity of the dish made it seem like it was just fish over rice. Yay Cheese! I absolutely love cheese samplers! Overall they had a great assortment of cheeses to be combined with their fruit jelly and green tea cracker. However, there was one cheese that had such a sharp ammonium taste to it that it was near inedible, I thought I was ingesting poison. I guess that’s cheese for you though. Now we’re getting to the good stuff. One of the highlight dishes in the entire meal was the Arancini. This round croquette sphere was filled with a mild Japanese Curry Risotto and Mozzarella. This ball was shockingly good. The concept is simple yet Kyotofu managed to transform it into something great. Well done. Next up for the heavy hitters was ironically a mini slider. The Chicken and Tofu Sliders are Teriyaki Grilled with Shiso in a Brioche Bun with a heavy dose of Cilantro and a slice of Cucumber served with Homemade Chips. The burger was definitely something different, it had the taste and textural makeup of a Banh Mi sandwich with the cucumber and cilantro. A welcome clean break from your usually unctuous burgers.I ate all 3 of these bad boys in a single bite each. I usually don’t eat Unagi (eel), but the Barbecued Unagi provided extra flavor and textural support that brought the dish together. The rolls are wrapped in Phyllo Dough with Sansho Peppers. Imagine the BBQ Pork rolls that you get at Dim Sum on Sunday Morning, but with a twist. A lighter aerier dough and a sharp seafood element create a more divine dish. No, they’re not just pigs in a blanket, they’re classier than that. They’re known as Pigs in a Duvet. The delectable Berkshire Pork Sausages are wrapped in fluffy puff pastry and paired with a marvelous Spicy Mustard. These things are something I can eat on a daily basis. I remember wrapping Hebrew National hot dogs in Pillsbury Croissant Triangles and sitting in front of a TV with a large bottle of ketchup as one of my favorite pastimes. This is just that, but upgraded.
Finally, I’m going to let you guys take a short break from all that food. Because we still have dessert coming up!
Yes, after all that, it didn’t take me long to know that I wanted to order the Kaiseki Prix Fixe, which was a chef’s 3 course dessert tasting. After all, Kyotofu was known for their desserts so I just had to try. Also, instead of embarrassing myself and taking all the dishes out to take pictures (because there was a noticeable amount of people waiting outside for tables) I just opted to use the good ‘ol flash.The picture does not do the dish justice whatsoever. This was Kyotofu’s renown Signature Sweet Tofu. Under that layer of Kuromitsu Black Sugar Syrup was a silky semi-sweet tofu with a piece of White Sesame Tuile and topped with a piece of Dried Apricot. The syrup was to die for, I even tried to lick every drop that was left in that oblong serving dishWhat a surprise! The second part of the prix fixe actually came with 3 separate dishes. BONUS DISHES! Let’s start from top to bottom. A Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Framboise and assorted berries. I’m actually not a huge fan of raspberry, so the framboise did kill it for me a bit. However, if it had been strawberry, I could only dare to dream.
The middle dish was actually the worst out of the 3 (although it looked the best). Your average Warm Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream in a peanut-ish sauce. Yawn. It wasn’t even a molten cake!
Finally, surprisingly the best dessert. A Matcha (Green Tea) Creme Brulee. One word. Perfection. One of the best desserts I’ve had of all time. Everything just seemed to marry well together. Darn you Kyotofu for only serving it in a small Illy Coffee espresso glass. I want more! Roar!Finally, we ended our long ordeal with one of Kyotofu’s Soymilk Soft Ice Cream, but why were we doomed with the worst flavor? Rose Vanilla Bean. Sound’s pretty right? Yet it tastes like your grandmother’s lotion. Every bite just seemed liked I was pouring a bottle of Rose scented lotion into my mouth. After a while you get past the tremendously strong rose taste, and it actually wasn’t too bad, but I’ll never get it again.Hooray for free Chocolate Brownie Bites before you leave!
Food: 7.5/10 – The food pushes the boundaries of normal cuisine, however it’s not all positive.
Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – Get past the quintessential coffee shop/bakery facade and enjoy the unique Chikalicious-esque dessert experience.
Service: 8.5/10 – The food came out a bit slow, and they were a little understaffed, but big points for helping me make this entry possible.
Value: 6/10 – I don’t really know how to view this. If you think about it as a 13 course meal for around $50, then you got your moneys worth, but it really wasn’t.