Sushi places are a dime a dozen, so when we learned that all the tables at our favorite Japanese resto, Sakagura, were filled, we were determined to find another authentic Japanese place for my honey's birthday.
After reading about another hidden (I'm noticing a theme for Japanese restos in the city!) spot in the East Village with similar menu items, my hungry honey and I decided to embark on search for the new place. Kyo Ya, on East 7th Street, is tucked below an average apartment building- not cleverly hidden, but with no obvious signage, it is easy to pass by. We were seated at the bar, where our friendly and attentive bartender took our sake and dinner orders. If you're a fan of Sakagura, you might initially be surprised by Kyo Ya's smaller menu, which is divided into hot and cold appetizers, entrees, and specials- since all had at least 2 vegetarian selections in each, I didn't mind, as sometimes Sakagura's menu and sake list can be overwhelming!
I started with a homemade tofu "cocktail"- served in a stemless martini glass, my homemade tofu found a home with some hot peppers, shiitake mushrooms, and broth. I had no words for the homemade tofu, just a delighted gasp- it did not crumble, but stretched over my chopsticks like Jello, and it's earthy, chewy bite was a perfect match for the mushrooms and peppers. Amazing! I also sampled the sweet potato tempura, which, unlike other tempuras that are served in small bites, was brought to me as a large chunk of white sweet potato to be eaten with a knife and fork. The sweet potato was tender and not overly sweet, and were complemented by the sea salt and soy sauce presented with it. I ordered cold udon noodles for my entree, and it could have easily been any old pot of cold noodles. Luckily for me, bonito broth was served on the side (phew!) instead of with the udon, and I was also given a platter of garnishes to customize my small noodle bowl- chopped mushrooms, grated fresh ginger, scallions, and even a little pot of sesame seeds. Thoroughly enjoyable! Birthday dessert of black tea ice cream and egg custard followed- though not particularly inventive, all were delicious nonetheless!
To potential diners- meals are very reasonably priced, but be warned, once you start ordering bottles of sake (and you should!), your tab can easily increase to Mt. Fuji-esque proportions.
It would be easy to compare Kyo Ya and Sakagura, but don't. Both are standout restaurants with masterful chefs from Japan- and even if Sakagura is not completely booked, I'll certainly be visiting Kyo Ya again.
Kyo Ya, 94 E. 7th Street (downstairs), 212-982-4140