Konnichiwa, NYC: More Japanese Must-Sees

Here’s part two of this series, which spotlights a few of New York’s top-tier Japanese offerings.

Aburiya Kinnosuke

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What: Choice sashimi and shochu restaurant in Midtown. Totally rocking that slick, simple, Japanese aesthetic that so many Japanese restaurants do. It’s a bit pricy, but highly recommended. Think of it as a tonier version of Yakitori Taisho, which I mentioned in my previous post. They’re both izakayas, but Aburiya’s fancier.

Where: Midtown East

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Takahachi Bakery

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What: Beautiful cakes aside, check out the Japan-tinged baked goods, like edamame-and-cheese rolls, yuzu-and-chocolate buns, tuna avocado sandwiches, green tea crepes, and “veggie boats” (a dough cradle filled with tomatoes, broccoli, and lotus root). Fresh bread is made daily, as well. Super clean and nice (like 99% of all Japanese establishments), and there’s a big window where you can watch the cooks work.

Where: TriBeCa

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Book-Off

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What: Similar to Kinokuniya, which I mentioned in the last entry, but all discount or used books. Book-Off is a chain in Japan, so it really took me by surprise to see one nestled in Midtown’s skyscraper-lined gorges. Like Kinokuniya, the entire bottom shelf is Japanese-language books and manga. They also sell other discounted stuff, like DVDs and video games.

Where: Midtown West

 

Japanese Shaved Ice Puts Slush Puppies to Shame

This coming from a guy who loves a good Slush Puppy — preferably Smurf-hued and from a gas station.

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But during my first summer in Japan, my palate for syrup-drenched ice dishes evolved to new levels of sophistication, thanks to kakigori, Japan’s luxe version of a snow cone.

You’ll find this stuff everywhere during Japan’s wicked hot, wicked humid months, particularly as street food or summer festival fare. In many cases, it’s the same as American shaved ice: Essentially a reconfigured popsicle, it’s finely crushed or shaved ice doused in synthesized, sugary juices, served in a paper cup.

But kakigori can also be very different. First, it often comes with just the right amount of syrup drizzled on top. (Not like Fla-Vor-Ice, whose empty sleeve often leaves behind a few shots’ worth of slurppable lemon-lime liquid.) Instead, Japanese people often pile on toppings, like fresh kiwi, melon, whipped cream, or macerated berries.

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Another common topping is azuki, which are red beans whose flavor is extremely common in Japanese desserts, particularly as a paste. A solid kakigori combo? Green tea-flavored ice topped with mountains of the semisweet, maroon legumes.

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If you’re a Westerner reading this, my guess is that you probably think this looks pretty gross. Well, if you live in a large, cosmopolitan city, you might soon be whistling a different tune, because kakigori is one of the latest dishes riding the washoku wave into the Anglosphere’s culinary circles.

Beard Papa, a Japanese cream puff chain that’s already up and running in places like New York and San Francisco, now has kakigori on its menu. Not the azuki variety (yet), but mango. They’re calling it “mango ice shower,” which sounds vaguely like a Chris Kattan SNL it. But hey, whatever reels ’em in!

Stay cool out there, beans or no beans.