UPPER EAST SIDE, NYC | As the Second Avenue Subway continues to close small shops and businesses on the UPPER EAST SIDE of Manhattan, it is with continued curiosity that new ones pop up to replace them, hoping for a better fate. In a space that has already been two different Asian-themed restaurant in the last three years, another had quickly appeared. It is called Kobeyaki and, is the name—and decor—suggests, it offers Japanese cuisine.
It looked neater than that of the previous tenants, yet small enough that even with the visible-from-the-outside table seating, projected more of a "takeout place" feel than that of a fully realized restaurant.
The menu posted of the storefront window boasted "rolls, bowls, burgers & buns" of traditional Japanese variety. Curiosity took over me as I found myself walking by one evening and felt a hankering for their spicy tuna burger, which comes with miso onions, wasabi mayo and spicy mayo. And although the spot comes across as a little "corporate franchise", the flavors excelled throughout each bite, balanced with layers of savory, sweet, spice, acid, umami, and even a little smoke. The tuna tasted very fresh, and its light texture were nicely complimented by the crispy breading, as well as the crispy julienne pickled vegetables.
So impressed with the tuna burger, I returned two days later to try a couple of other items off the menu. I opted for the grilled beef bowl, consisting of teriyaki grilled beef tenderloin over a bowl of udon noodles. (Other options to have the beef go over are white rice, brown rice, or salad.) Again, great layers and balance of tastes and textures, although I obviously needed to be reminded of why I've never been a big fan of thick and inherently gummy udon noodles.
More successful was the side of sweet potato fries, tempura-fried to help maintain crispness without interfering with the sweet potato's comforting and earthy sweetness.
I am eager to revisit Kobeyaki often—and am thankful that they are a chain and available elsewhere in Manhattan—hoping to enjoy the rest of the menu on the promise of these first few dishes. I'm just hoping other diners do the same and help this place stick around for a long while.
Bun Apple Tea!
KOBEYAKI (UES) | 215 East 86th St. (off 3rd Ave.) | 212.860.2300 | kobeyaki.com