Kyo Ya, a serene, gorgeously designed restaurant, offers the second finest Kaiseki cuisine in NYC, after David Bouley’s triumphant new restaurant, Brushstroke. The core of Kaiseki, an ancient art form that is the Japanese counterpart to Western haute cuisine, is balance – of flavors, textures, colors, aromas, temperatures. It originated in the Zen monasteries of ancient Kyoto, evolved to an accompaniment to the Japanese tea ceremonies served at ryokan and eventually to the elaborately choreographed multicourse tasting menus that were served to Kyoto’s emperors. Kaiseki meals typically involve 7-9 seasonal courses and follow a highly ritualized progression involving an appetizer, a lidded dish (typically, a clear soup), sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish and a steamed course. They are always served on elaborate, beautiful servingware meant to complement the visual beauty of the intricately composed dishes.
Kyo Ya’s Kaiseki tasting menu requires two days advance notice for the esoteric ingredients, dazzling in their breadth, to be shipped from Japan and, depending on how you count, often consists of as many as 20 courses. It is a sublime sequence of dishes exhibiting a consummate artistry and refinement. There is a variety of incredibly fresh sashimi, Washu Tajima beef that you grill yourself on a hot stone after first lubricating it with a piece of beef fat, delicious small bites like an eel arimani on a crispy rice puff and deeply flavorful soups and broths that are nevertheless light and clean in consistency. The food is complex, creative and beautifully presented in simple, artful arrangements.
The handsome and intimate interior of Kyo Ya is outfitted with beautiful woods, including an undulating ribbed wall behind the bar seating, brick barrel vaulted ceilings, soft lighting and spot lit floral arrangements. Even the small bathroom hidden in the rippling wall, with its diversity of textures and burning incense, is an exemplar of tasteful and elegant Japanese design. The friendly service is truly expert, with waiters eager to instruct and share their passion for the ancient tradition of Kaiseki. Rosanjin may have more theatrically beautiful presentations and Brushstroke may have more uniformly exceptional food, but this hidden gem is a culinary treasure, one of the three finest Japanese restaurants in the city.
94 E. 7th St.
New York (nr. First Ave.)
212-982-4140 Mon-Sat, 5:30-11:30pm; Sun, 5:30-10:30pm
- Chikara Sono, Chef