Takashi

Takashi has been on my list for a very long time. When it came time to pick a restaurant for my birthday dinner, I knew exactly where I was going to go! Takashi, located on Hudson Street in the West Village, is a marriage between Japanese yakiniku and Korean barbeque. A lot of the dishes feature traditional Japanese dishes paired with Korean flavors.

We had reservations for 4 people (they actually only allow reservations for 4+ people) and was seated right away. At 6:30pm, all the tables were full and most of the counter spots were taken as well. They take your jackets and store them in closets so they don’t smell like barbecued meat, which I thought was very nice.

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We opted to start with a few shared appetizers and then move onto the yakiniku. Our first appetizer to arrive was their Instagram-famous Niku-Uni ($26), which features raw chuck flap topped with sea urchin and served on top of a shiso leaf and seaweed. I really enjoyed each bite (spoiler, I had 2). The uni was really fresh and creamy, and all the flavors meshed really well together.

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We also decided to be adventurous and try the Testicargot ($12), or cow balls cooked escargot-style with garlic shiso butter. I’ve had bull penis as well as turkey balls before and neither of them was a good experience, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one either. It was actually quite pleasant! To be fair, the cow balls were smothered in the garlic shiso butter sauce so you couldn’t really tell what you were eating. But, I did enjoy the texture and taste a lot more.

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Our last appetizer was the Stewed Beef Tendon Casserole ($16), which was more stew than casserole. I really enjoyed this dish. The beef tendon was very tender and the stew was extremely flavorful and fragrant. I kind of wish the dish was a little bit bigger because I wanted more beef tendon!

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We sampled a variety of meats during the yakiniku phase of our dinner. We ended up trying:

  • Kobe Kalbi, or short rib ($26)
  • Kobe Ribeye ($26)
  • Beef Belly ($20)
  • The Tongue Experience ($25) with Tan-saki, Tan-suji, and Tan-moto
  • Sirloin

All of the meats we ordered were really good, but I think our favorite of the night was the Kobe Ribeye, which we ended up placing a second order. Everything tasted really fresh and a lot of the meats practically melted in our mouths (except for the tongue, of course).

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They only have one kind of dessert here – Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Soft Serve ($5), which you can add a variety of toppings. I went with the, “I’ll have it with the works” ($10), which has every single topping and your choice of a syrup. It comes with Shiratama (mochi), Kurogoma Kinako (black sesame and soybean flour), and azuki (red beans). I opted for the green tea syrup, which helped to cut the sweetness of the ice cream. It was really, really good and made me think of my time in Japan last year where the soft serve is definitely better than it is here.

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Service was attentive and they changed our grill a few times during dinner, which helped prevent the meat from sticking. At most barbeque places I’ve been to, they have to grease the grill. Here they don’t grease it at all, which I guess speaks to the quality of the grill. I did enjoy yakiniku more in Japan, but I think Takashi was definitely my best experience in the US.

Sugarfish NY

Sugarfish, a very popular sushi restaurant in LA, has finally landed in NYC! Sugarfish, opened by chef Kazunori Nozawa, prides itself on delivering the classic omakase experience without the traditional omakase price point. Sugarfish also features Chef Nozawa’s signature warm sushi rice, which is a new experience for those of us who are used to the more traditional sushi rice preparations.

In classic NYC-style, the wait times for Sugarfish have been insane. On any given day, for lunch and for dinner, the wait times can go up to 2.5 hours. I came in with a party of 3 on a random Tuesday afternoon and we were quoted a 1.5 hour wait. It was more or less about that time – but there is a waiting area upstairs where the restrooms are that they don’t really advertise.

Once seated, our waiter came over to explain their menu. They’re known for their three omakase menus: the Trust Me ($33), the Trust Me Lite ($23), and the Nozawa Trust Me ($45). Each menu has some of the same basic items, but the two more expensive menus feature a little more extra as the price point goes up. We opted for 2 Trust Me’s – to keep it simple. The “Daily Special” was Large Scallops, which we ended up ordering on the side to try.

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First up was the Organic Edamame, which was served chilled. I actually like chilled edamame since it’s not as mushy as warm edamame. This was a nice opening to our meal!

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Next up was the Tuna Sashimi, which came pre-marinated. I really enjoyed the dish – the sashimi was fresh and the marinate was tangy and sweet at the same time.

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The first two pieces of sushi to arrive was the Albacore and Salmon. The Albacore came pre-sauced, so we were advised not to dip it in sauce sauce. The Albacore practically melted in our mouths – it was so soft and moist. The Salmon, however, was my favorite piece. It’s perhaps because I’ve always been partial to salmon, but boy was it fresh and delicious!

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Our last two pieces of sushi to arrive was the Yellowtail and, since they ran out of Hirame that day, the Sea Bass. The Yellowtail was very tasty – but the highlight of the plate was the Sea Bass. I’ve never had Sea Bass sushi before so this was a real treat. It came pre-sauced with a spicy, tangy sauce that really helped highlight the freshness and clean-taste of the fish.

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Our first hand roll to arrive was the Toro Hand Roll. They recommend that all hand rolls be eaten as soon as they arrive since the warm rice will cause the seaweed to wilt. Definitely be sure to eat it as soon as it arrives because crisp seaweed really adds to the mouth-feel of the roll. The toro was tender and melts in your mouth.

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I thoroughly enjoyed the previous hand roll but was completely blown away by the Blue Crab Hand Roll! The blue crab was moist, fresh, and had just a hint of saltiness. This is definitely my favorite hand roll of the two.

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We finished our meal with our added order of Large Scallop ($7.00). The scallop was super sweet and very fresh – something that’s a common theme at Sugarfish. If you’re a fan of scallops, definitely get yourself an order!

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Service was attentive and sufficient. Due to the fact that all items are served as they are made, sometimes we all didn’t have a particular dish at the same time. This wasn’t a huge issue as they’re meant to be eaten as soon as they’re placed onto the table, but it was a tad awkward to be at a different pace as my other dining partners.

I really liked that gratuity is included in the price of the meal – just like restaurants in Japan! All in all, Sugarfish serves up some really delicious and quality sushi. It’s not the best sushi I’ve had (in NYC and in Japan), but for the price point, it really cannot be beat.

Japan Round-up: Kyoto Edition

And here is where I segway into the Kyoto portion of my round-up! Our favorite meal was an accident. I had bookmarked Arashiyama-Yoshimura Restaurant, located right on the river in Arashiyama, a district in the western district of Kyoto, for their soba. When we arrived at the restaurant after an energetic walk up to see the snow monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park (which I highly recommend!), the wait was 2 hours. Discouraged, we realized that their tofu restaurant had only a 30 minute wait. It was probably the best accident of our entire trip. The tofu meal was astounding – the tofu was soft and fresh and the whole meal just felt clean and light. The ambiance is also very calm and soothing – we were seated right next to their little outdoor garden and we felt like we were dining in the countryside.

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Another Kyoto highlight is the food stalls leading up to Fushimi Inari Shrine, known for its beautiful orange/red torii gates. Each gate is a donation to the shrine and there are over a thousand to date.

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I had some of the best taiyaki from a food stand along the path to the shrine. While the owner of the stall was a bit cranky, his taiyaki was top-notch – probably because he refused to make more until he sold out his previous batch. It meant the wait time was a bit longer than your usual taiyaki stand, but it also meant delicious, super fresh taiyaki.

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If you explore the Gion area in Kyoto, you’re bound to notice that matcha soft-serve is a big thing. But what’s even better is matcha soft-serve with little cakes on the bottom! We stumbled onto this little store than specialized in omiyage specific to Kyoto – but they also sold soft-serve as well as certain cakes to eat on the spot. We opted for this delicious vanilla-matcha twist soft-serve on top of their matcha sponge cake. Divine! Perfect after a long hike through the streets leading up to Kiyomizu-Dera temple!

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The thing with Osaka and Kyoto is that everywhere you go, there will be so much good food to eat – especially in the areas surrounding the major attractions. Sometimes, I think the food stalls on the side of a temple is more appealing than the restaurants! Don’t be afraid to walk up to a stand and try something new – you won’t be disappointed!

Japan Round-up: Osaka Edition

And now onto the second half of my trip to Japan – Osaka. Osaka is part of the Kansai region of Japan, which is further south than Tokyo is. Osaka is pretty much, in my opinion, very similar to Tokyo. It’s a big city with a very sophisticated train system and lots of residents. We stayed in the Namba area in Osaka, which is very close to the main dining area of Dotonburi.

In Osaka, one of the best meals we had was at Matsusakagyu Yakiniku Yokocho, located in the heart of Dotonburi, Osaka’s famous eating street. Matsusakagyu Yakiniku specializes in Matsusaka beef, a special kind of beef from the suburban area of Matsusaka city. Matsusaka beef, known as black-haired Wagyu, has a high fat-to-meat ratio and is considered one of the three big beefs, along with Kobe beef and Omi beef. We went with the Premium Course (7,800¥ per person) that featured their famous Matsusaka Marbled Beef Sushi and 4 different parts of Matsusaka beef. The beef itself practically melted in our mouths! The price is a big steep, but it is well worth being able to try such a delicious type of beef.

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Another one of our best meals in Osaka also featured beef – but Kobe beef this time. Located inside Namba Station is New Kobe, a tiny restaurant where customers sit around a counter and are given individual pots for shabu shabu. This was our last meal in Osaka before returning home, so we decided to go big and order their A5 grade Kobe Beef Shabu Shabu set. The meat was phenomenal! Usually with fatty beef, there is some residue when you eat it after cooking it in the broth. But there wasn’t any at all – the beef went down super smooth and the fat-to-beef ratio was out of this world.

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Anyone visiting Osaka should pay a visit to Kuromon Ichiba Market – or the kitchen of Osaka. This market runs down several streets – and then branches off to several side-streets as well. There is so much to eat that you literally cannot eat it all! There’s a lot of fresh seafood being grilled right on the spot as well as seafood that you can eat raw. You can even have them crack open a fresh uni for you to eat on the spot! And of course, don’t forget the Taiko-Manju, or drum-shaped sweets with red bean paste on the inside!

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If you don’t have time to take a trip to Kobe to have some Kobe beef, there are a few spots in Kuromon Market that will grill up Kobe beef for you on the spot to eat. We went to Maruzen because they have a tiny counter for you to sit and eat. The Kobe beef was phenomenal! We didn’t use any type of dipping sauce – just their special salt. The beef melted in our mouths – but wasn’t as fatty as the Matsusaka beef from Matsusakagyu.

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Another highlight of Osaka was eating all the street food from stands that pop up around major tourist attractions. At Osaka Castle, we had some of the best takoyaki. It felt more authentic than the shops in Dotonbori, who are cranking out takoyaki in faster than you can even say the word takoyaki! The soft-serve from tourist attractions are also top notch – do not skip out on that!

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Japan Round-up: Tokyo Edition

I’ve always been a fan of Japanese cuisine – you name it, I’m there. So naturally, when I take a vacation to Japan, I’m going to eat as much as I can! And if there’s one country where food is abundantly available – in copious variations – it’s Japan. I sheer amount of street food (glorious takoyaki, sweet taiyaki, and the best soft serve in the world) that I had in my two weeks in Japan is astounding! And of course, the infamous vending machines that are probably the best invention ever.

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Since I split my time between Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto, I’m going to split my posts into two food round-ups: one for Tokyo and day-trips and one for Osaka/Kyoto. The food types are somewhat similar in the sense that in every city there is takoyaki, there’s ramen, there’s soba, and, of course, there is sushi – but the tastes and flavors are vastly different between these three cities. Let’s start off with the giant hub that is Tokyo.

My very first meal in Tokyo was Numazuko, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in the heart of Shinjuku. Here at Numazuko, you sit around a giant conveyor belt that stretches the length of the restaurant. You can either pick off the belt or order directly from the chef if you don’t spot what you want. Prices vary depending on the color of the dish and at the end of your meal your waiter will count it all up for you. Green tea is completely self-service and you’re pretty much left alone during your meal unless you flag someone down. I personally thought the fish was pretty fresh and since we sat in front of the chefs, we got first dibs on the new items.

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One of the highlights of my trip to Tokyo was Shirohige’s Totoro Cream Puff Factory, located in Setagaya, a residential ward located 15 minutes away from Shinjuku. Shirohige’s specializes in – you guessed it – Totoro cream puffs! You can buy them from the store front or walk upstairs to Tolo Café and eat the cream puffs with a nice cup of coffee. We opted to sit down in the café since I wanted to take my time and admire these cute little desserts. The cream puffs were actually very good – and not just a gimmick! I think my favorite was either the chocolate cream or banana cream.

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When a tourist visits Tokyo, they often go to Tsukiji Market, one of the most famous fish markets in the country. They are famous for their tuna auction, which requires attendees to start lining up at 3am in the morning just to get in! They’re also famous for their fresh fish and delicious sushi. Instead of lining up for hours at the hotspots Sushi Dai or Sushi Daiwa, I opted for Yamazaki, located right smack in between the two restaurants. Our wait was only about 1 hour and we probably stayed for close to 2 hours (much to the discontent of the people waiting in line outside). We ordered a set to share but then ordered a few pieces off the menu straight from the chef. Our chef was super nice and the entire restaurant is pretty English-friendly. The highlights were definitely the fatty tuna, fatty salmon, abalone, and this firefly squid sushi with 3 tiny squid on top. The Uni was a standout as well. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Yamazaki and highly recommend it if you don’t want to wait in line for the two usual suspects.

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My favorite ramen meal in all of Tokyo had to be Rokurinsha Ramen, which serves Tsukemen. Tsukemen is ramen that is served in a separate bowl from the liquids – there is actually no soup. You dip the ramen in a thick fish sauce. If you have leftover sauce, you can ask for broth to be added and then you can drink the soup. I thought the combination of bouncy, al dente ramen worked so well with the fishy dipping sauce. If you’re interested in trying out Rokurinsha, I recommend the Skytree Solamachi branch over the Tokyo Station branch, which is always busy.

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One of our favorite meals of the entire trip was in Hakone, a small mountainous town known for their hot springs and views of Mt. Fuji. Hakone is located close to 2 hours away from Tokyo – faster if you take Odakyu’s special Romancecar train. Right on the side of Lake Ashi is Ashinoko-Chaya, a restaurant with great views of Lake Ashi and amazing soba. Here, we had soba and rice topped with Hakone’s famous soy milk skin. The flavors were simple, but the freshness and crispness of the ingredients really shone. If you have extra time in Hakone, walk to the Hakone Checkpoint and make a stop at Amazake-Chaya, a small teahouse that served the best mochi that I had my entire trip. You won’t regret it.

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We took one more day trip out of Tokyo during our week there to Yokohama, a former port city just 30 minutes by train from Tokyo. Inside one of the many malls in the Yokohama Minato-21 area, is Yokohama Motomachi Doria, a restaurant that specializes in rice doria and omu rice. We had the mushroom-meat sauce omu rice and it was divine. The egg, or omelet, was so soft it practically melted in my mouth! If you’re in the area checking out the Cup Noodle Museum or Cosmo World, definitely give Motomachi Doria a try.

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And lastly, I want to give a shout-out to Coco Curry Ichibanya, which might be a chain, but offers up some of the best (and cheap) curry rice in all of Tokyo. You can literally order any variation of curry rice here – vegetable, chicken katsu, pork katsu, no katsu, sausage, and a bunch of other toppings and sides. Your meal will be hot, delicious, and super cheap! I had the pork katsu curry rice with cheese on top and it was pure perfection. You’ll end up smelling like a walking box of curry when you leave, but it’ll all be worth it!

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Have any good places to recommend? Or general questions about where I went? Drop me a comment – I’d love to talk more about this amazing country!

Teisui

Teisui, located in the Flatiron district, just opened about a month ago and it has been attracting a bunch of good reviews. When I first read about this restaurant, before my trip to Japan, I was intrigued. It wasn’t until I came back from Japan and was feeling “Japan-sick”, that I knew we had to go here for our belated 6th Anniversary dinner. Teisui was designed to recreate the traditional Japanese Ryokan experience in New York City. In fact, Teisui will feature a roaster of visiting chefs as well as in-house chefs from her sister hotel in Akita, Japan, where many of the ingredients come from.

 

True to its design, Teisui serves a 10-course seasonal menu ($150) that’s modeled after a yakitori kaiseki meal that’s typically served in Ryokans. And like all restaurants in Japan, hospitality is included – something I really appreciated and wished we had more of! Wine pairings are an extra $90 and sake pairings are $95 – but don’t feel pressured to participate. We ended up ordering individually off their impressive list since we’re a bit picky about our sake.

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We were the first to arrive so we had the sole attention of the staff for a while. We were seated at the corner of the bar so we had full view of the cooks, which is a sight to behold. They took notice of my note that we were celebrating our anniversary and offered us a generous pour of champagne. How sweet! Our waiters was also not pushy about picking the sake or wine pairing and let us choose our own pace when it came to beverages.

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Our meal started off with a hot towel to clean off, which I really came to appreciate during my time in Japan. It’s great to be able to clean off the dirt from outside before starting our meal! Then came the amuse bouche of chawanmushi with edamame purée and foie gras and topped with Hokkaido uni. The chawanmushi was super creamy! Since chawanmushi and the lighter edamame purée was so lightly seasoned, you could really taste the foie gras and uni. I could literally sit here and eat this every day!

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Our first real course was the Hassun, or a mixed plate of king crab, kiritanpo, or smashed rice that is oval-shaped and cooked yakitori-style, chicken burdock, and watercress goma-ae, or watercress tossed in peanut sauce. The chicken was very tender – but the standout was definitely the kiritanpo, which was chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside from the grill.

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The next course was Tsutsumi-Yaki, which featured tender chicken and mushrooms cooked in plastic wrap. You are presented the dish fully intact so you can unravel the plastic and catch the full aroma of the chicken and mushroom soup-like dish. People always say that you don’t just eat with your mouth – but with your nose and eyes too. This dish definitely appealed to all three!

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Our next course was the Rabbit Miso Cappuccino, which featured two pieces of rabbit meat and Kyoto miso cappuccino. The course was presented to us in separate cups – the rabbit in one and the miso cappuccino in the other. We were instructed to pour the cappuccino into the rabbit cup and have it with the rabbit meat. To be honest, I was a bit thrown off by the words, “miso cappuccino”, but I was pleasantly surprised when it paired so well together. The cappuccino flavor was light and very smooth and creamy. We ended up scooping the leftover out with a spoon.

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Next up was Tsukune, or chicken meatball cooked yakitori-style with egg yolk. The meatballs are meant to be dipped into the egg yolk, which was interesting. The meatballs were very tender and juicy – not a dry patch in sight!

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After the Tsukune course, our utensils were cleared and we were given a palate cleanser containing ikura and a new hot towel. Our waiter called it intermission, which I thought was pretty neat. After a brief break, we proceeded to our next course – Tori-Mune Konsai, or chicken breast yakitori with beets, an arugula-wasabi sauce, and a dash of salt from Akita on the side. The chicken was tender and cooked so that it had just a hint of smokey-ness.

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The next course was the Kamo Mushi-Yaki, which featured duck breast, a red wine sauce, and seasonal vegetables. Our waitress told us that there is citrus jelly drizzled over the season vegetables of tomato, pepper, and radish. The citrus was indeed a nice contrast to the savory red wine duck. This was a standout dish of the night – the duck breast was cooked to perfection and the red wine sauce was not overpowering at all.

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Our next course was perhaps my favorite of the night – Tori-Momo with Couscous, which featured chicken thigh cooked yakitori-style with mashed potato, eggplant, and couscous. I’m not normally a huge fan of couscous, so for me to say this was the star of the night, it means it was pretty darn delicious! The presentation itself was gorgeous with a gold plate topped with perfectly squeezed dollops of mashed potato. A piece of thigh meat paired with the airy and light couscous was a burst of flavors in my mouth.

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The next course was more subtle in flavor, since we were winding down for the night. We were presented with the Chef’s Special Selection of sushi, a piece of nigiri and a piece of a roll. The flounder nigiri was good, but I really enjoyed my tuna roll piece that was topped with Hokkaido uni and ikura. The uni was creamy, salty, and sweet at the same time – the true butter of the sea!

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Our last savory course was named after the restaurant – Ishiyaki Teisui – or miso soup with red snapper, king crab, and Tokyo scallion. The chef beings over the soup in a huge bamboo bowl and then explains that he will heat the soup with rocks from Mt. Fuji that are heated to 700 degrees. He drops the rocks into the soup, which brings it to boiling temperature almost immediately. After a few seconds, he removes the rocks and serves us each a bowl of soup. The soup is enough for each person to have at least 3 servings. I had a huge piece of red snapper in mine, along with copious amounts of Tokyo scallion. I remember seeing the size of the scallions while I was in Tokyo and marveling at how big they are. Now I know how they taste! The soup was light and rich in miso flavor – not too salty at all.

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Our grand finale was the Anmitsu with yuzu jelly, red beans, a scoop of honey milk ice cream, and topped with a sugar cookie. This was a light and refreshing way to end our meal – the dessert was a nice change to the otherwise savory meal without being too sweet or lingering.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Teisui and cannot wait to find a reason to go back! The service was impeccable – our waiter and occasional waitress were both very attentive without being overbearing. Our waitress even noticed that the Boyfriend was left-handed and started placing his settings on his left side. What a small attention to detail that he’s never received anywhere else! They also open the door for you when you enter the bathroom and then listen to you to come out so they can open it again for you. It’s really these small little things that can really add up to making the evening. I highly recommend a visit to Teisui – whether you’re just looking for a good meal out or celebrating a special occasion!

Ps. They’re on OpenTable so reserving a counter seat – or even a table for a larger party – is super easy!

Senya

Both the Boyfriend and I are avid sushi lovers. There’s nothing that makes us happier than a delicious piece of raw fish on perfectly seasoned rice. When it came time to find a spot to have our annual pre-Valentine’s Day dinner (we refuse to eat out on the actual day), I instantly thought of SenYa. Thankfully, SenYa is on OpenTable, so I hopped on over and snagged us a reservation in less than 5 minutes.

We arrived for our 7:00PM reservation on time and were seated right away. The restaurant is pretty small so reservations are definitely needed. A few of the tables were completely empty until about 1.5 hours into our meal – but they refused to seat any walk-ins. In true Japanese style, they would rather have the table ready for when the reserved party arrives, than seat a table, have to rush them for the table back, and make a few extra bucks. I really appreciate this style since it means my table is always ready when I arrive for my reservation!

We opted to share an order of their edamame ($5.00) and their Uni Toast ($18.00) for our appetizers. The Uni Toast was positively delightful! The tiny, mini toasts are topped with uni and marinated amaebi, or sweet shrimp. The result was a blend of sweet and salty. The uni practically melted in our mouths – like true butter of the sea! They come three to an order, so be sure to order two if you have a larger party.

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For our entrées, we opted to order two sushi entrées and split them. The first entrée to arrive was the SenYa Chirashi ($34.00), which features the Chef’s choice of 12 types of assorted sashimi over a bed of sushi rice. The pictures of the Chirashi online are completely deceiving – it’s huge! Unlike Hatsuhana’s Box of Dreams, which has maybe two bites of rice in each bowl, the Chirashi at SenYa has about 5-6 bites of rice with four pieces of fish on top – 2 of each fish. I sincerely think that the Chirashi at SenYa is the better deal. The fish was delicious – I think my favorite was either the slightly seared salmon with black truffle oil or the red snapper.

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Our second entrée was the SenYa Chef Assorted ($32.00), which features the Chef’s choice of 5 pieces of sushi, 8 pieces of sashimi, and a negi toro roll. The presentation was gorgeous! The assortment ranged from your typical yellowtail to more special cuts like otoro. My favorite was a toss-up between the slightly seared salmon sashimi with the black truffle oil or the otoro sushi. Both practically melted in my mouth, they were so fatty and tender.

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For dessert, we opted to split their Water Cake ($5.00) and the Green Tea Cheesecake ($7.00). The Water Cake is served with maple syrup and azuki beans. It’s sort of like a stiffer jello with barely any taste of its own. It really took on the taste of the maple syrup and azuki beans. The Green Tea Cheesecake was really tasty – you can order it with either green tea ice cream or vanilla ice cream. We opted for the green tea ice cream and the two paired very well together. Both weren’t too sweet and resulted in a very nice and simple dessert.

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Service was very attentive throughout dinner. Our empty plates were cleared in a very timely manner. Our waitress would explain every single fish in our entrees – sometimes with where they were from. The uni in the chirashi, for example, was a Maine uni. We were both very pleased and impressed with dinner and cannot wait to return to sample more of their delicious sushi!