A New Kind of Traditional Japanese Restaurant Moves into NoMad
TEISUI is designed to recreate the experience of a Japanese Ryokan hotel in New York City. It’s a long way from Japan, and yet TEISUI restaurant is on the same latitude (40 degrees North) as its sister hotel of the same name in the Akita province in Japan. The new restaurant is the innovation of Takuro Hirabayashi, a Japan-based entrepreneur who has recently turned his focus toward the hospitality industry with the TEISUI Hotel in Akita.
In a modern, industrial-chic landmark space, located between the Flatiron and Nomad districts of Manhattan, TEISUI New York occupies a sleek space, enhanced by a Japanese architect-designer with graphite tabletops, steel-gray stools and chairs, and contemporary lighting fixtures. The focal point of the restaurant is the 17-seat dark stone counter at the center, which faces the open kitchen and the wall behind it—sculpted maple wood that represents the serene flow of the ocean with a wave pattern that creates a calming effect, and pays tribute to the ocean views at the TEISUI Hotel in Japan. In a small alcove with tables, a semi-private dining space resembles the “library” in the hotel, with its red-orange exposed brick and backdrop of piled stacks of books. Another tribute to the Oga Pennisula are the traditional handmade demon-like Namahage masks on the left and right of the dining counter.
The restaurant will feature a 10-course tasting menu composed of small, elegant dishes that comprise a sensuous experience. Guests will put themselves in the chefs’ hands for a meal that is stimulating to all the senses. The composed meal traces an arc and resembles a story, but not something you can put into words.
The food is prepared by a highly skilled team of Japanese chefs, including Nobutaka Watanabe, who studied and taught at Hattori Nutritional Culinary School, a top-rated Culinary Institute in Tokyo, and was also Head Chef of the Hapa Izakaya restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, and Yuichiro Yoshimura, who is an experienced yakitori chef and until recently, worked at the TEISUI Hotel in Japan. The team works in concert and is supported by a roster of visiting chefs from the hotel in Akita, Japan.
Guests seated at the counter have the best seat in the house for the theatrical style of the open kitchen. The experience has been designed as a yakitori kaiseki experience, a multicourse, seasonal tasting menu, made with deluxe ingredients, and free-range Bo Bo chicken for the yakitori dishes.
The tasting menu is somewhat set but also includes secrets and surprises. The first treat to greet guests is not on the menu: Uni Royale is a beautiful, silky and subtly rich amuse bouche: warm, soothing egg custard with lovely green edamame puree, foie gras and sea urchin (uni) from Santa Barbara. Combining all the elements in your mouth is the first of many sensual experiences to come. Many of the dishes pay tribute to the traditions of the Akita province—including the multi-faceted Hassun, a traditional Japanese preparation, served in the classic Japanese manner: A plate composed of watercress touched with gomae-ae sauce (a lightly sweet savory sesame paste), chicken with burdock, King Crab and a stunning rendition of Kiritampo, freshly cooked rice that is pounded until somewhat mashed, then formed into cylinders around Japanese cedar skewers, glazed and toasted over an open hearth. The result is a special treat: gently smoky, slightly sweet, with a lightly crispy exterior and a tender interior.
Another dish in the progression is tender rabbit breast and leg sourced from Iowa, marinated in Saikyo miso from Kyoto, Japan accompanied by a frothy, inviting cup of miso cappuccino to be poured over the rabbit and mixed together; the earthy sweetness of the miso serves as a perfect counterpoint. Tsukune will redefine your concept of a meatball—smoothly minced chicken is formed into a generous round patty, then braised in Yakitori sauce and served with a slightly cooked egg yolk. Diners dip the chicken into the thick, runny yolk for a surprising and supremely satisfying combination of flavors. Another course is the water shield—an aquatic plant unique to Akita—that serves as a palette cleanser, mixed in a shot glass with salmon roe, sour plum and dashi; It is delicate and refreshing.
The Yakitori Chicken Breast with Root Sauce—incorporating the highest quality poultry—is served as is the tradition on skewers, accompanied by two complementary sauces—a slightly sweet bright red-pink beet sauce and a lightly bitter, bright green arugula sauce, both ideal for dipping the flavorful, tender meat. It’s as beautiful as it is tasty. Other courses that follow may include smoked duck, chicken with Israeli couscous and eggplant, a seasonal selection of sushi and finally Ishiyaki TEISUI soup. The miso soup is created before your eyes in an elaborate ceremony--the broth is brought to a rolling boil with the addition of heated Mount Fuji Rocks, which gently heat the Japanese red snapper, King Crab, and Tokyo scallion. The final step is a swirl of miso. The result is a satisfying conclusion to the savory portion of the meal. Dessert is Animitsu, a delicate combination of yuzu gelatin and milk honey ice cream, topped with a honey crunch.
The beverage program is directed by Yasmin Mansour, formerly of Aldea: “The wine list is a comfortable and approachable selection of old and new world wines, as well as sake made exclusively for TEISUI by Akita Sake. The program focuses on offerings that highlight the overall cuisine. It allows the guests several routes for which to enjoy various pairings.” The extensive list includes more than 100 fine sakes and wines.
A “Ryokan” hotel is a very different cultural concept that is unique to Japan. At this type of hotel, guests come primarily to dine, often in their room, and to relax and experience nature. Each room has a dedicated staff person who brings a tasting menu course by course. The TEISUI hotel is historic, the only hotel in the Akita region where the Emperor stayed. It is located in a remote, isolated and beautiful spot on the Oga Pennisula. Situated at the top of a mountain, there are breathtaking ocean views from every room.