239 E 5th Street
New York, NY 10003
Given that Ukiyo is in no way, a sushi-ya, I had considered whether I should be writing this post at all. Ukiyo is described as French cuisine with Japanese and Global inflections. No idea what that really means. BUT, I’m running out of restaurants to write about, and “Japanese” is in the description, so I figured why not! HA! So a preface… In terms of French restaurants, we always find the best French restaurants to dine at, and will always pick their most robust tasting menu, know what taste good, what doesn’t, but can in no way tell you why. Despite that, here we go….
First, the soft stuff, the ambiance, the crowd & the service. Very dark, muck darker than when it was Degustation (the previous sister restaurant to Jewel Bako, which Ukiyo replaced), but that could just be the dude working the dimmer… Somewhat empty, we were one of four patrons for the entire time we were there (abt 2 hours and 20 min-ish). Very polite and accommodating staff (host and waiter both). And head chef Marco Prins seemed a bit stand off-ish. Doesn’t talk much, very short with answers and explanations, overall not-so-engaged.
Then, the meat, the food… A few servings were really quite good, caught me off guard good, the Artic Char, the Venison, and the desserts. But most… overly complex, for I don’t know what reason, and a bit uppity, like just trying too hard to be “different”… Sorry Ukiyo!
BTW, every time I type Ukiyo, I think of Hi Yukio! Hi Wade:
- Amuse Bouche – Kumamoto oyster with about 6 pounds of seasoned grated radish. After removing 5.95 pounds of the radish, the oyster tasted just fine. Just hoping the rest of the toppings won’t be so over the top.
- Hamachi, Pumpkin (Sea Buckthorn, Epazote) – Usually not a fan of all the fancy toppings on my good cut of fresh sashimi. When it’s all on the side, and you decide if and how much you to put on though, then I don’t mind! Loved the nuts, the Japanese sea grapes, and the sea buckthorn (that yellow smear in the middle). It’s a super trendy “superfood” that’s supposed to be an incredible boost of vitamin c. Not crazy into the health trends, so it didn’t excite me like it should have. Don’t really see how the Epazote came into play though. Very good serving.
- Salad of Mushrooms (Jidori Egg Yolk, Arugula, Soba Cha) – I am a HUGE fan of sautéed mixed mushrooms, especially if the medley includes maitake and shimeji mushrooms. Slightly disappointed that there weren’t more varietals though. Two kinds is almost confusing. Not really a focus/highlight on one, but not a medley either. It’s very difficult for me to give my two cents on this specific serving tonight… As a mushroom lover, I truly love the flavor of the mushroom itself. And mushrooms don’t need much, a little garlic, a little onion or shallot, if you want to get crazy a dash of wine and butter, and it’s magnificent as is. There was just SO MUCH going on with this plate. The egg yolk, the nuts, the fried crunchies. I still ate most of the serving, because again, I love mushrooms, but I didn’t “get” it…
- Oxtail Bouillon (Foie, Beef Cheeks, Daikon)/Celery Root Cappuccino (Lobster, Apple) – The 8 course tasting came with the oxtail bouillon, I wasn’t interested, so special requested the celery root cappuccino from the 5 course tasting menu instead. Clearly, they accommodated. Unfortunately, neither was any good. The celery root had the most tarte apple pieces that fought like hell with the soup itself. The oxtail bouillon tasted like 2 tsp of store bought bouillon stirred in with a little bit of tiny chopped beef and potato cubes. Not so bad as to the bouillon cubes, more like the “Better than Bouillon” kind. Not what I expect to be served in a tasting.
- Scallop (Sunchoke, Buddha’s Hand, Vin Jaune) – Again, not a huge fan of lots of sauces on anything but pasta, takes away from the natural flavors of the focus (protein/vegetable/root/whatever). This sauce looked like a thick butter or cheese sauce, and I nearly flipped out. BUT, it was surprisingly good. The scallop was cooked perfectly, still rare inside, and the flavors blended real well. Still too much sauce, but it was light, so didn’t steal the show. Btw, I kinda, sorta feel like Ukiyo is a bit uppity. Like using sunchoke instead of potato, or even mentioning that buddha’s hand and vin jaune was used, who specifies the exact citrus and wine used when describing the dish? I get it, your ingredients are the higher end, better for your health ingredients. But is it really necessary for you to list it out each time you use it? Again, just a bit uppity, a bit snooty, a bit in-your-face…
- Arctic Char (Parsnip, Dill, Kohlrabi) – Not a huge fan of cooked artic chars (or any fishes of the orange family), but this dish was pretty awesome. The salmon was super undercooked, and the super light parsnip/dill/kohlrabi sauce was really complimentary. Surprising!
- Venison (Roasted Cabbage, Crème Fraiche, Beet) – Happy to have some red meat! Loved the venison, cooked perfectly rare, not at all gamey, and spectacular flavors. I wasn’t a fan of the accompaniments though…
- Tete de Moine – Cranberry, Italian Orange Blossom Honey – Tasted real good, but I truly don’t know the first thing about cheeses. I know your standard 10 kinds that you find in any local market, so this dish was kind of wasted on me… Sorry cheese fanatics – I have failed you!
- Caramel Spiced Parfait (Apple Crumble, Rosemary) – Yummy yummy! They gave us a bunch of desserts, not just this one, and every one was pretty darn good. Chef Marco spoke abt each dessert as though he prepared it all himself, which would be pretty impressive. That the same chef did all those courses AND the dessert? Pretty cool!
- Tea Service (Japanese Genmaicha, Chocolate Mousse, Crispy Caramel, Quince Madeleine) – All very good, and a perfect wrap up to the meal!