Kyo Ya had been on my list of places to go ever since Jiro Dreams of Sushi came out and that whole kaiseki craze in NYC blew over. Well, I finally went there on my last trip in NYC. Didn’t do their kaiseki, but their a la carte menu seems to have the same high quality that I’ve heard raves about.
There’s also a small tatami room (not pictured) that I could see, but we didn’t sit there.
We really didn’t eat that much there (I had been eating all day), so we just tried a few different things. But now that I’ve been and tried a few things off their a la carte menu, I want to go back for their kaiseki menu.
This was smoked sea eel. The smoked flavor was really evident.
It’s hard to really point out any thing that was stunning about the food at Kyo Ya. All I can say is that the food was cooked well. There wasn’t anything fancy. But, I feel like there are very few restaurants where you can taste the flavors of every thing you’re eating with such clarity. To do that is no small feat.
Finally, the masterpiece of this meal, the uni over rice cooked in a stone bowl.
We had to order this ahead of time because it took approximately 50 minutes to cook. The waiter described it as a sort of Japanese paella.
Look at all that uni!
Now, cooking uni is also no small feat. It’s got this very delicate texture, so if you cook it took long it loses that softness that it’s prized for. Instead, it turns rather hard and rubbery, almost like hamburger meat. This uni, however, was cooked but not over cooked. It still retained it’s tender consistency and was delicious.
It was kind of funny, because my guess is that this is either a new seasonal dish or it doesn’t get ordered very much, but the waiter commented that he had never seen so much uni together in his life. (For those of you who don’t know, uni or sea urchin is like the foie gras of the seas. It has this very milky rich flavor to it when cooked right.)
There’s also something else I’ve noticed. I think Japanese rice is slightly different than the rice that (at least) my family eats at home (or served at other Chinese restaurants). It’s much more glutinous and that was the type of rice eaten with the uni. I believe the Chinese have rice like this as well, but we use it mainly for zong zi (the banana/lotus leaf wrapped rice dumplings, kind of like tamales) and sweet rice dishes. Apparently, the Japanese eat it regularly?