awning.jpgI always had a feeling that there were japanese bars and restaurants out there that were hidden speakeasy type places that you had to know a friend of a friend to learn the Japanese password and find their secret location.

My recent trip to Tsukushi restaurant (300 East 41st Street; 212-599-8888) hinted at this kind of intrigue and exclusivity, but was easy to find and even had it’s name on the awning. From there, you enter through a nondescript black door, step down some stairs and you land in what looks like… someone’s wood paneled suburban den. for real!

serious_wood_paneling.jpgThe interior is really striking as it is about as far away from “tokyo underground” as you could imagine. The waitresses are friendly and shuttle from bar to table to kitchen and back wearing cute hausfrau aprons.

All the food here is Omakase – Chef Norihiko Manabe’s choice. This meant that the only thing I really had to worry about selecting was the Sake – and that was the real challenge of the evening.

yamadanishiki_glass.jpgI scanned the sake menu and decided to go with the Hakushika Tokubestsu Junmai Yamadanishiki (Tatsuuma-Honke Brewing Co., Ltd., HYOGO Prefecture). “Yamadanishiki” is in itself a type of rice, but not just any rice. It’s regarded as one of the best sake making rices there is. The taste was clear and soft. What I liked about this Yamadanishiki brew was how well it went on it’s own as well as with the food. The sake was served in a sizable tumbler with a hausfrau-ish quilted coaster. It was so enjoyable I ordered another!

Tsukushi was really a fun experience. You have to let yourself go a little and be open to whatever the chef wants to send out, but if you can do that, you’re bound to have a good time. Even though it wasn’t the real Tokyo underground speakeasy I was hoping for, this somewhat hidden gem is a real NYC find.

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