Why Come Here? Sample unusual and excellent Japanese cuisine, cool subterranean space, beautifully presented dishes

Kyo Ya, NYC

Sweet Potato Tempura

Kyo Ya can best be described as a secretive den of authentic Japanese delights. There’s no website, and the menupages menu is 30% accurate at best. There’s no sign indicating the subterranean lair, other than an “Open” sign. In fact, it’s across the street from Caracas Arepa Bar, which I’ve been to probably 10 times without a clue of its existence. Even the bathrooms are hidden, much to the staff’s amusement. Story: When I needed to use the restroom, I began wandering down the narrow corridor but couldn’t find any doors. The woman behind the sushi bar asked “restroom?” A waitress then came by, yelled “surprise” and pushed open a hidden panel on the wall. Well played.

As for the food, Kyo Ya offers an extensive and somewhat intimidating a la carte menu, as well as 7 and 11 course tastings called “kaseikis.” The kaseikis must be ordered at least a day in advance so the fish can be flown in, but we elected to go a la carte to sample more options. The a la carte contains many dishes and ingredients most westerners will be unfamiliar with, but fortunately it’s hard to go wrong (but not impossible, as the fermented squid taught us). One staple everyone should try is the pressed sushi, which is rarely found in New York.

Kyo Ya, Tasmanian Salmon Trout

Pressed Tasmanian Salmon Trout

Two other great things about Kyo Ya: the pacing of the meal and the presentation. We ate family style and dishes were brought out one at a time for us to savor, with no noticeably long gaps in between. They were all also beautifully laid out and I suggest you visit my DishEnvy page for more photos.

Below are the highlights from our trip:

Famous Sweet Potato Tempura  One of the sweetest and tenderest sweet potatoes I’ve eaten. Highly recommend this house specialty; the crispy watercress accompaniment also deserves mention.

Pressed Tasmanian Salmon Trout  I’d never heard of pressed sushi. I don’t know why they press it. But it works. Well.

Beef Maki Rice Ball  The skin in a combination of marinated angus and kobe beef. I’ven ever had anything quite like it and sweet-saltiness in ridiculously good.

Blue Fin Sashimi  A fantastic, fresh piece of fish.

Kyo Ya
94 East 7th St. (1st Ave & Ave A)
New York, NY
No Website
Kyo Ya on Urbanspoon