kyo ya: kyoto wunderground

you could say that i was doubly excited on last friday evening.  my new canon powershot s95 had arrived with promises of excellent low light capability in a pocket sized package, and i had reservations at kyo ya — one of my favorite japanese restaurants in nyc, where i could partake in and properly document a sublime eating experience.

i’ve been to kyo ya three times now — once to partake in the full-blown kaiseki tasting menu experience, and a la carte the other two times.  i’ve always been impressed with their meticulous preparation of food (cf. exquisitely prepared kyo ya salad in the picture above), unique presentation and impeccable service — the staff is so nice and polite, and they really do seem to anticipate your needs before you ask.

i’ve always wondered about why kyo ya hasn’t become a more buzzed about restaurant as compared to some of its other japanese peers in the city.  and i think it might have to do with kyo ya not being a sushi temple; it’s a place you go to taste cooked japanese food – something which isn’t quite as mainstream.

i should probably also mention something about the restaurant’s location.  a bit like sakagura, it’s located in the basement of a brownstone type building in the east village.  the first time i went, i walked by it completely before doubling back.  i remember having my doubts about the place when i first saw it from the outside, but once inside the vestibule, a sense of calm sets in.  i completely forgot that i had walked in off of a gritty ny street, and felt as if i was in a japanese tea room. the interior of the restaurant is done up in a rather japanese zen-like fashion.  the bathroom is hidden behind elegant but modern wooden panels. there are private tatami mat rooms in the back.  everything exudes a sense of modern organic harmony.

kyo ya isn’t exactly easy on the wallet.  when ordering a la carte, it’s about $70-85 without alcohol, and $95+ with alcohol.  the portion sizes are on the small side, and when we go, we end up ordering tapas style — getting a whole bunch of dishes that everyone can share.

i haven’t posted every dish we ordered but here are a few highlights:

kyo ya’s famous sweet potato tempura.  a large wedge of sweet potato that was probably steamed prior to being flash fried.  it ends up tasting oddly light and fluffy, rather than greasy.  it’s accompanied by a bit of sauteed watercress, salt and sweet soy sauce.

buta kakuni: aka my friend C’s all-time favorite dish.  pork belly, slow cooked and drenched in an ooey gooey sauce. how can you go wrong?

chicken django: hubs’ favorite dish of the evening.  it’s kind of like a stir fry of chicken meatballs, vegetables and a rice cluster in a clear and starch sauce.  S thought it was too similar to chinese stir fry, but i’ve never encountered chinese stir fry quite like this!

kyo ya’s seared salmon boxed sushi.  the salmon is delicious and i thought the presentation was vivacious and gorgeous.  the rice accompanying the fish is on the compressed side, but i think that’s just how boxed sushi rice tastes.

gindara – a black miso cod.  really tender and flavorful. see how it glistens!

kyo ya’s grilled jidori chicken.  okay, i’ve ordered this dish on the two prior occasions and it was absolutely delicious.  it’s wrapped in a yuba leaf and the aromas just make you mouthwater. however, i will say that this time around, the chicken turned out a bit salty.  but hey, maybe the chef was having an off night with the chicken?

so being the gluttons that we are, we ordered all 3 items on the dessert menu: an anime tofu, a hojicha ice cream arranged in 3 perfect quenelles (not quite sure how they do that! mine always turn out sloppy), and the creme caramel (pictured above).  the creme caramel is really really divine and highly recommended.

btw, the new pocket-sized canon s95 seems to be working great for food shots so far!  i’ll have to take it back to a dimly lighted restaurant like compose or marc forgione to re-test it in more “extreme” conditions.

Kyo Ya
94 E 7th St (near 1st)
New York, NY 10079
(212) 982-4140
Tue-Sat: 5:30pm-11:30pm
Sun: 5:30pm-10:30pm
Closed Mondays

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2 responses to “kyo ya: kyoto wunderground

  1. Yay for the new camera! How awesome. Your reviews are such a delight to read. The photos are great….and that cod looks to die for! I have not been to Kyo Ya yet. All 3 items on the dessert menu ? Love it! I would do the same! Cheers.

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