New York City has lately been seeing an influx of Japanese restaurants from home, especially with sushi and ramen. Yakitori is another type of Japanese food that has been popular with the New York City diners, but you would typically not associate with the grilled meat on skewers with high-end dining; they are more typical in various izakaya bars located in neighborhoods like St. Marks in East Village. That’s why I was intrigued to find out that a new restaurant opened up in Flatiron for a high-end yakitori style food from an owner of a hotel atop a mountain, inspired by ryokan (Japanese country inn). I took a plunge and overall had a satisfactory experience.
When I first saw that Teisui offers only one tasting menu at $150 per person (including taxes and gratuities), I knew they had be doing something special, not just serve a string of predictable skewers. The meal already started pleasantly with flavorful chawanmushi with uni and foie gras in it, followed by a dish called “Hassun” (an assortment of gindara (black cod), kiritanpo (cylindrical mashed rice), chicken and watercress salad) that was also quite a nice bite. The kitchen certainly doesn’t shy away from putting together a show. A mix of chicken tender, mushrooms and onion sauce came in a wrapped plastic bag, and was delicious, and the Kyoto miso “cappuccino” where you pour miso broth on top of pieces of rabbit meat had nice balance of flavor as well.
Some dishes were somewhat predictable and I felt the consistency of flavor and texture was somewhat off. I honestly can’t remember anything special about the haru tori-mune (chicken breast with pumpkin puree, bamboo shoots, fava beans and fiddle heads) or kamo “minazuki” (duck breast with red wine sauce, powdered duck and seasonable vegetable). If the kitchen was going to highlight the yakitori side, why bother serving a pedestrian sushi plate (the one served on my visit had a piece with flounder on top and another with chu toro with uni and ikura and the latter somehow didn’t taste as it should be despite the combination of various ingredients that I so much love)?
On the other hand, though, I was pleasantly surprised with tori-momo with couscous, where chicken thigh worked in a remarkably beautiful fashion with mashed potato, eggplant and couscous. That dish was the highlight of my night, with exceptional balance of flavor and texture where it shows the kitchen isn’t just playing safe. The next best dish was simple miso soup with red snapper and king crab in it, not only because the broth was absolutely aromatic but the way the kitchen put it together, placing a couple of Mt. Fuji rocks into the pot to create the sizzling effect that was just a sight to behold. The meal ended with anmitsu, a combination of mocha, black sesame, macha ice cream, seasonal fruits and honey cracker that I did enjoy but wasn’t particularly enamored with.
Getting a reservation at Teisui is easy, and I was actually shocked that the dining space was nearly empty, with only a couple of other groups sitting at the counter. Have they been not doing enough in the PR department, or is the concept of eating yakitori-style tasting menu at that price point too much to take? I couldn’t tell. Anyways, if you are already shelling out $150 per person, why not go for the sake pairing (at additional $95 per person)? At least the pairing that I ordered had some really fantastic sake menus (there was actually one person from the company that produces one of the pairings who came over to us to explain its origin). I’m not sure why the restaurant has billed itself as a ryokan style restaurant, given the modern décor really didn’t give that vibe of some countryside resort. Teisui is not perfect, but overall the dining experience here is something that a curious diner could explore if you’re looking for a unique take on the art of yakitori.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 246 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (917) 388-3596