One of the major restaurant trends in New York City this year has been the influx of high-end (i.e. very expensive) Japanese restaurants offering the top-echelon sushi, kaiseki or other tasting experiences. One place that opened this summer that has been under my radar is Mifune, which is on the “modern” side of Japanese cuisine led by a chef who used to run a highly acclaimed restaurant Sola in Paris until it closed due to a fire. On the evening before Thanksgiving, my wife Jun and I stopped by for a visit; since we are both fans of refined Japanese cuisine, we knew we were more likely than not to have an average or above-average meal. What we didn’t realize is that Mifune is one of the best new restaurant openings of the year!
Mifune has both a la carte and tasting menu options; if you want to explore the full range of dishes that the kitchen brings to the table, I would recommend without reservations going all out for the eight-course options (at $120 per person, which may sound expensive but still a bargain relative to other high-end Japanese places in the city). The first course, a combination of truffle egg chawanmushi and sea urchin from Hokkaido, provided some nice scoops/bites to kick off the meal, followed by an assortment of fresh sashimi (Jun and I got tuna, salmon and amberjack). What came next was a series of home-run seafood dishes that were nothing short of spectacular.
Jun is quite sensitive to raw fish types like scallop. The one at Mifune came out in crispy battered form inside bonito dashi sauce. The textural effect of the lightly battered scallop was not only exquisite but with the dashi sauce, the subtle yet elegant flavor combination wowed Jun so much that she declared this was one of the best dishes she’s had all year. Seared red shrimp with caviar was also astounding. I only experienced a shrimp lightly seared like this at a restaurant in Spain (which still has the highest all-time KenScale rating per this link https://kenscale.com/2015/09/19/asador-etxebarri/); the smoky sensation from the shrimp, combined with the caviar that was an icing on the cake, was just magnificent. Broiled gindara (a cod that is frequently used for the popular “black miso” version in other modern Japanese restaurants like Nobu) came out accompanied by Parmesan foam; I thought the dish could come out a little less sweet, but nevertheless it was another winner.
For meat, we got the premium aged angus beef steak that I thought was more or less perfectly cooked and would’ve been better if it had lost a bit of the red wine reduction sauce on top of which the meat was sitting. The last savory course was a flavorful snow crab and ikura rice which Jun and I both liked (although she wished we had a side of pickles to complement the rice). When the dessert came out, I knew instantly that Jun would give a high score to this place. She always loves tiramisu, but Mifune impressed her even more with matcha version (accompanied also by red wine strawberry confit). I was getting full by then, so I gladly let Jun have the rest of the tiramisu after I got a couple of scoops.
Getting a reservation at Mifune wasn’t too difficult (perhaps because we visited during the time of the year when everyone leaves town for Thanksgiving?) but the restaurant became moderately packed in the course of our meal. Maybe it didn’t help that the restaurant also sits on a quiet corner of Midtown East neighborhood that becomes a ghost town during off-work hours. The dining space has the modern (but not kitschy) feel that could make the restaurant work for a variety of formal and casual occasions. There is full bar with some carefully thought out cocktail and sake options to complement the meal. Mifune offers sophisticated but not over-the-top Japanese dishes that may look familiar but still have subtle and unexpected twists here and there for an exceptional dining experience. Jun and I would love to come back again in the near future.
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 9.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 245 East 44th Street, New York, NY 10017
Telephone: (212) 986-2800