Ootoya, Chelsea, New York 16/20


SOONER or later all the best restaurants in the world will be Asian. Health will be one reason. Another will be that western chefs will just fall off the edge of their own so called creativity. Up themselves.

I did not even realize that Ootaya was part of a chain albeit part of the ethos is to be individual, so earlier this year it announced it would stop tipping in its New York restaurants and share the proceeds of sales equably around all the staff. This is New York, home of the tip.

TripAdviser rates the Flatiron outlet as 1131 best in New York City, while the Midtown outlets creeps up to 916. Most of the bad reviews are just misunderstandings. It is not a sushi bar. A glance at the comments will reassure you. As might the queue. They are not better than the very best but it is a lot better than most and gathers a menu of the kind that is popular in the 100 or so branches in Tokyo (the original was in Kyoto) in that it has something for everyone under one roof. People can be picky about the sushi, but the quality of the homemade tofu, soft as blancmange, elegantly served with its three salts from around the world are a better indicator. img_0438

Midtown – or Chelsea – is a big compartmentalised ground floor including kitchen where most things seemingly are made as they go. I have been the only white male, one of only a few males sometimes, the rest being Asian female, in singles, couples and groups. But there is a buzz of a greeting as anyone arrives or leaves, so it is all very robataya – doing it right. Tepanyaki is cooked in front of you at night, featuring different parts of the chicken. Also wagyu beef. The sashimi on warm rice was superlative. And the soba.


And all of this was less than $20 a head. There are two other branches in New York – in Greewich village and Times Square – but on researching I find there are 300 plus in Asia and the company is listing on the Tokyo stock exchange…I rest my case.


The original is at

98 Nakajimacho Sanjodori Kawaramachi Higashiiru, Nakagyo-ku | 2F Goshoame Bldg, Kyoto 604-8004,



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