On a quiet strip of Midtown East (129 East 39th St, NYC) you will find Kawabun where the zen-like atmosphere extends from the outside with its natural wood door and bamboo swaying in the breeze to the inside. Here you will find an elegant dining space on the ground floor with textured walls, beamed ceiling, natural wood elements and cobalt blue booths. The upstairs space is set off by more neutral tones and oversized paper lanterns in various shapes and sizes.
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As the story goes, Kawabun was created four centuries ago in Nagoya, Japan with tranquil gardens, waterfalls and firepits designed to celebrate culture and customs. At Kawabun New York, Chef Yoshitaka Ito is bringing those customs to life.
Each dish is presented as a piece of artwork. The meal begins with thinks like Ume Potato Salad with lotus root, nori and shiso; Seared Kamo, soy marinated duck breast with charred leak, served cold; and Goma Dofu, a sesame custard served in kombu dashi.
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Guests can also explore dishes like Tarabagani, broiled king crab with crab miso sauce served in individual shells. The showstopper is the Wagyu Hobayaki, slices of wagyu steak with herbal miso sauce served atop a hoba magnolia leaf on a hot stone smoking the meat as it arrives tableside.
Black cod marinated in salkyo miso is prepared simply in a dish called Gindara Saikyo Yaki. Slightly caramelized around the edges, it is perfection on a plate. Our favorite dish, and there are many we have yet to try, is the Shrimp Sando, fried shrimp cakes with cabbage and mustard served on Japanese milk bread. It’s sweet, savory, fun and fabulous.
Most of the desserts consists of ice cream, sorbets and seasonal fruits. We tried a vibrant, bright yellow Yuzu Citrus Sorbet with yuzu peel, served in an equally bright bowl. Visitors will also find a selection of teas from Yamamotoyama Tea Company, the oldest tea company in Japan dating back to 1690.
Kawabun is a dining experience one should not miss!