Kyo Ya, NYC 2

September 1, 2015

After our meal at Kyo Ya four-and-a-half years ago, I wrote: “We will be back to Kyo Ya.” Well, Linda and I finally made it back on August 8, 2015, along with Blair and Karyn. In the meantime Kyo Ya had gained a Michelin star, three stars from The New York Times and is now tied for second place in Zagat’s NYC Japanese food ratings.

When reserving our table, I had ordered the August Kaiseki; the menu for it was already on our table when we arrived. The titles below come from it. We ordered a bottle of Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo sake to start.
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It was elegant and refreshing, an excellent way to start and to accompany the early courses.

“Zatsuki” -First Course
Gobo and Nitsuke Lunch Pack Sandwich
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A small cardboard hamburger box opened to reveal a little “sandwich,” which seemed to me more like a raviolo. Inside was a purée of simmered burdock root and fish. This was very subtle.
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“Sakizuke” – Second Course
Noodle Like a Senryo Eggplant with Dashi Broth
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The light green glob in the middle was Japanese eggplant shredded to be like noodles; it had a nice eggplant flavor and the dashi was good.
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“Oshinogi” – Third Course
Sakura Shrimp and Ginger Omu-rice with Broccoli Sauce
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Omu-rice is a fusion creation which has become very popular in Japan. Its name is a fusion of omelette and rice. Fried rice, in this case ginger and shrimp flavored, is wrapped in a thin egg crêpe. Broccoli sauce is another fusion concept in this context, but it worked well.
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“Owan”- Fourth Course
Edamame Tofu in Clear Soup with Junsai and Kinshi Squash
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I think that the young, green soybeans added more color than flavor to the tofu. Junsai is known more for its gelatinous texture than any flavor. The decorative spaghetti squash on top was also mild, so this was a very subtle dish.

We ordered the first of two bottles of Nanago Yamahai Junmai Daiginjo sake.
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This had more body than the first sake and an assertive flavor which would go well with the later courses. Up to this point the flavors of the food had been quite mild, but that changed somewhat.
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“Otsukuri” – Fifth Course
Fresh Oyster and Sashimi of the Day – Chef’s Selection
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The excellent Totten oyster, from the Puget Sound, was sort of a pre-sashimi. The ponzu sauce was complementary, but somewhat redundant in its saltiness.

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There was an unusual variety of fish in the sashimi course. We were advised to use salt on the acorn-shaped octopus piece. The others (counterclockwise) may have been horse mackerel, fluke, whitefish, snapper (tai), tuna and Tasmanian salmon. They could be dipped in the soy sauce or wasabi as desired. I wrapped a piece of the tuna in the shiso leaf which was under it. The little glass in the upper left with the oyster leaf on top contained very good sea urchin. It was suggested that we wrap it in the nori sheets provided. This was very good, with complementary flavors and textures, but was a bit sloppy to eat.
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“Yakimono” – Sixth Course
Grilled Yaki Tomorokoshi Butter Soy Sauce with Bekko Sauce
Ponzu Sautéed Kikurage, Peaman, Scallion and Kale
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The core had been carved out of the corn cob and refilled with a whitefish purée. Butter soy sauce is a lovely accompaniment. The wood-eared mushrooms with green vegetables made a nice little salad alongside.
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”Nimono” -Seventh Course
Kuruma-fu Touba-age with Winter Melon An
Tomato and Shishito Pepper Tempura, Mizuna and Kinira Ohitashi
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I will have to let the course title stand on its own describing this complex, exotic dish.
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“Tomezakana” – Eighth Course
Rock Shrimp Tempura
Onion Dressing, Grapefruit, Rhubarb Vinegar and Finger Lime
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I first learned about finger lime three weeks before and this was the third time I was served it since. It has a lovely flavor, but I did not see the point of squeezing it onto this dish, which was already dominated by the grapefruit.
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“Oshokuji” – Ninth Course
Soft Shell Crab Kara-age and String Beans Kamadaki Rice
Red Miso Soup, Braised Shishito Pepper and Pickles
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This was the traditional finishing rice dish served from an earthenware pot. This was nice, but the portion of soft-shell crab was meager.
The red miso soup was good.
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Dessert
Fruit Punch Ume Syrup
Assorted Seasonal Fruit, Kanten Jelly, Anko and Black Bean
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The little dots are basil seeds.

Shiso Sorbet
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We had an enjoyable evening, but the quality of the cuisine was not up to our previous meal or Kyo Ya’s high ratings and price. Theoretically the summer season should have produced excellent ingredients with which to work, but that was not the case. Our last meal was in March and included excellent wintery dishes like duck and wagyu beef. There was no equivalent this time. There was too much complexity, which is not very Japanese, with the grapefruit on the rock shrimp being the worst ingredient destroying garnish. In the first few courses it did not succeed in bringing out the flavors.  The service was sometimes quite perfunctory.

Oh, well. If the ratings and reviews continue to be good, we will try again.

Kyo Ya
94 East 7th Street
(between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)
New York 10009
212-982-4140

To see our last meal at Kyo Ya click here.

 

 

 

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