Steakhouse is often an experience in and of itself. You are served gigantic chunks of meat with some decadent sides accompanied by a deep flavored bottle of red on a white cloth table. There are fully dressed middle-aged male servers everywhere taking your orders with thick accents. New York City has certainly been one place where steakhouse experience often represents the essence of what it means to eat a steak outside your home. Then along came Ikinari, a popular chain in Japan which has turned our traditional conception of steakhouse experience upside down by, among other things, having diners stand up while devouring their meat. When my wife Jun and I stopped by for a quick meal for a movie night, what we saw was a pretty mechanical process. You go order a steak by weight and they bring you the meat to the high table where you wait while standing up. Jun and I didn’t complain much, though, since the steaks at Ikinari turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
What we liked the most about the steak at Ikinari is the fact that seasoning is kept at a minimal level so that the texture of meat can be the highlight. Whether it was the ribeye (sold at 9 cents per gram) and the filet (sold at 11 cents per gram), the texture was quite balanced and we had the option of adjusting the amount of dipping sauce so overseasoning was simply not an issue. In order to have a fully satisfying meal, it’s probably best you order 500 grams of any given meat (equivalent to 17.6 ounces). Add a side of garlic pepper rice that also had some small pieces of meat mixed in between, and we had one really satisfying meal that we weren’t sure we would have after witnessing this somewhat impersonal dining process of eating steak. A lesson learned: what truly matters in your steak experience is the quality of meat and how they cook it, rather than how many fancy tables there are.
Ikinari doesn’t take reservations but we had no problem dining right away when we showed up for early dinner on Friday (although the place got quickly packed over time). There is a concise list of beer and wine selections to complement your meal; perhaps they could bring a couple of legitimate red wines by the glass to really enhance the dining experience? The casual vibe at Ikinari with no chairs (although the restaurant is apparently going to bring some in the near future, perhaps taking into account complains from some diners) may look like a blasphemy in steakhouse world, but I admit that I’ve had better pieces of meat than many other traditional (and expensive) steakhouses. If you’re looking for a quick steak fix, Ikinari is certainly a place worth visiting.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 90 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (917) 388-3546