TOP RESTAURANTS TO TRY IN NYC
This is one of NYC’s best kept secrets. It’s an underground Japanese (with an American twist) restaurant hidden under a fancy champagne bar. Better known as Tokyo Record Bar, it’s dedicated to those that love music – with a vinyl offering of a plethora of famed bands and artists throughout the decades, from every genre. For those that are familiar with Japanese dining, you’ll know that there’s a popular style of bar there in which the music you listen to is just as important as the food that’s served. And this is the whole point of Tokyo Record Bar, which pays homage to the jewel boxes of vinyl in Japan. At the start of the night, you’re offered both a record and drink menu, as well as pencils and sheets of paper to write your choice of songs for the evening’s playlist. The DJ will then curate a playlist throughout the night.
There’s no Tokyo Record Bar sign or entrance. Instead, enter through Air’s Champagne Parlor on MacDougal St. It’s a charming space in its own right with an extensive champagne menu available for the guests of Tokyo Record Bar while they wait. Once everyone arrives, you’re led downstairs to subterranean izakaya.
This much loved 12-seater izakaya offers some of the best delicacies in town. It’s a seven-course izakaya tasting menu served over the one and a half hours. There are two seatings, throughout the evening, one at 6:30 PM and another at 10:30 PM. They also accommodate dietary restrictions, be sure to make that clear ahead of the booking, so vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian palettes are carefully considered. Start with an aperitif of sake and snacks such as togarashi coated popcorn, nori chex and spicy, fermented cucumbers. The courses that follow include interesting dishes like oysters with shiso Asian pear, king crab legs with yuzo miso butter, prawns with horseradish aioli, perfectly crispy maitake mushrooms tempura with agedashi sauce, and a caviar sandwich with brioche and whipped egg. No meal is complete without something sweet. A homemade milk chocolate pudding with soy caramel, rice krispies and orange zest.
Air’s Champagne Parlor
127 Macdougal St
New York, New York 10012, US
2. Michelin-Starred Mifune
If you can create a better word than”Japanofrench” to describe the savory excitement that the Japanese-born, French-bred talent stir up at Mifune, then please message me immediately. Executive chefs Yuu Shimano and Tomohiro Urata brought their Michelin-starred power fusion game to midtown Manhattan in 2017. Against the backdrop of these politically tumultuous years, they have built a sturdy intercontinental retreat for beleaguered sophisticates craving creativity and space from the dross of nationalism.
The look and feel is Japanese, as a matter of fact the sushi-driven sister restaurant, Amane , is nested within the compound. “Seven Samurai” and “Throne of Blood” splatters the ballsy cocktail list. Naturally, since curator Shingo Gokan is officially the World’s Best Bartender (Tales of the Cocktail 2017). Not only does he bring the mayhem with these burly whiskey concoctions, he also provides the sweet finesse that both cultures are known for, with plum wine, lychee, and orange blossom flavours arrayed about the menu.
We’ve returned twice for the tenderly seared Black Angus steak tataki artfully displayed with edible flowers and a tangy sesame sauce. Another treat involved a smoky mushroom soup topped with a fluff of pistachio foam. My companion loved the squid ink-seafood bouillabaisse rice with lobster aioli so much she ordered it again for take-away lunch before her flight for London the following day.
American-born GM Mayumi Kobayashi is an engaging host and, for those in the know, might be able to accommodate a tasting menu during slower periods when the chefs are not so burdened. Definitely stay for dessert. Olive oil and green tea ice creams were our choice, as well as a gorgeous berry-laden creme d’anjou. Chef Tomo graciously stepped out of the kitchen twice to chat in convivial English, French and Japanese. A warm lingual trifecta beyond borders that somehow made us feel perfectly at home.
245 East 44th Street
(Between 2nd & 3rd Ave.)
New York, NY 10017
3. Korean Meets Italian
“Umma” stems from the Korean word meaning “mom” in English. Inspired by founder Natalie Camerino’s ancestry, of Korean and Italian roots, the restaurant originally opened its doors in 2018 as a counter-service restaurant serving noodle bowls. It once catered to the fast-paced casual crowd who would slurp down a quick bowl before scurrying back to the office during their rushed lunch break.
Camerino renamed her establishment in 2020 to Umma by Noodlelove and added a 24-seater outdoor dining concept, with an increased indoor dining area of another eight seats. She hired chef Tabitha Yeh (formally at Noma and Bar Masa) to create a delicious Americana-Korean-inspired menu that caters for people looking for real comfort food. Chef Tabitha Yeh also takes cues from Italian and French cuisine, which go back to her global upbringing.
Located in such an international city, the concept is for the food to make people think of home, but with a creative, modern twist. The menu evokes nostalgia from both Camerino and Yeh’s childhood. On the menu, expect Korean-style fried chicken in steamed buns, bulgogi cheeseburger dumplings with Wagyu beef and cheese sauce, bibimbap fried rice, tteok-bokki rice cakes with glass noodles and vegetables, and Seoul alle vongole with a clam sauce broth and wonton noodles, napa cabbage, scallions and gochugaru. Delicious!
Umma by Noodlelove
192 Mott Street (Kenmare Street)
By Friday Jones and Hershey Gargash