Jukai – 237 East 53rd Street, Manhattan, New York City
According to the chef at Jukai, their menu combines Japanese tapas with Kaiseki-style dishes, a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. Jukai also incorporates some Western European styles into its dishes as well to help appeal to the broader New York City diners.
Jukai sits below street level in a small, dimly lit space. The restaurant has a handful of tables, lit with pin spots, and a central bar/food prep area. Aside from the pin spots, candles provide the majority of light.
There certainly was no shortage of food for us! We had the opportunity to sample a number of different dishes ranging from Spanish mackerel with ground radish to broiled salmon marinated with sake to beef carpaccio to shabu shabu.
The salmon tasted like it just came off the grill. However, that grill flavor was the all of the flavor it had. It was pretty bland. PS – that pepper was definitely spicy so beware!
The mackerel was delicious. The presentation was very nice, with the fish in the center of a large plate, being an attention hog. I didn’t get a lot of the ground radish flavor but that’s fine by me since the fish was where it was at.
I’m not an oyster guy but I just had to take a picture of these big boys. The Pacific Coast oysters Jukai served up were ENORMOUS. I’ve never seen oysters this big before. I didn’t sample any but from the rounds and rounds they kept going through, I have a feeling people liked them.
One of the highlights of the night was the shabu shabu. I was clueless as to what this was but it’s the perfect winter meal. Shabu shabu is a Japanese dish where thinly sliced beef and vegetables are cooked in water. The dish is normally served with a dipping sauce as well. This was delicious! I loved it and ended up scarfing down two bowls. The sauce didn’t make this as sweet as I thought it was going to be. Instead, it was much more of a savory dish.
And what meal is complete without dessert? Jukai came at us with some unique options – and black tea panna cotta. I could have eaten these for days. The black tea panna cotta tasted exactly like I was eating black tea. The white sesame blancmange confused me a bit, tasting like peanut butter, but who was I to complain?
Jukia means happiness and I must say that after leaving this event, I had a smile on my face! The highlights of the night were the shabu shabu and both desserts – white sesame blancmange and black tea panna cotta.
If you’re looking for some authentic Japanese cuisine in an unexpected midtown location, Jukai may be just the spot for you. Based on what I tasted, I’d head back for some of that shabu shabu and even recommend Jukai to anyone simply looking for some tasty and unique desserts in the area.
A quick note about Tabelog, the event organizer. Tabelog is a website for foodies, designed by foodies. The site is the number one restaurant and review website in Japan and recently set its sights on the United States, launching a US version in New York City. The website is very visual, with big photos doing the talking. They’re also dedicated to bringing together the food blogger community – something I can definitely get behind. Next time you’re looking for a restaurant, check them out!