As part of the ever-growing global economy, the cross-pollination of culture through food is becoming increasingly prevalent. One strong example of this is the relationship between restaurants in New York City and Japan. Food establishments with roots in NYC now have sister outposts in Japan with the same name and similar menus, and in New York, Japanese food businesses are also opening up branches. Read on for a few of our favorites.
From Japan to NYC:
In Kyoto, this first-rate udon noodle restaurant is at the base of one of the country's largest and most popular temple complexes. Delicious bowls of noodles are served with seasonal delicacies like hamo (conger eel), in a big, bright room. In NYC, Omen can be found in SoHo: Here the menu includes soba, but serves more of a broad swath of Japanese food, with a range of dishes like you find in an upscale izakaya.
Ippodo, one of Japan's most beloved green tea establishments is centuries old, but it just recently opened its first U.S. branch in Murray Hill. The NYC location offers the same refinement and tea selections as what you find back in Kyoto.
The story behind Ivan Ramen is a strange example of cultural exchange: Chef Ivan Orkin moved from Syosset, New York to Tokyo and opened what came to be one of the city's most popular ramen shops. Then, last year, he returned to the U.S. to open a ramen shop on New York's Lower East Side. This year, he added Gotham West Market Slurp Shop in Hell's Kitchen to his portfolio: same great noodles, same line out the door.
En Japanese Brasserie
En Japanese Brasserie in New York is the offshoot of many EN's in Japan, from Wasyoku EN to Guchiso EN. The West Village location is lively and upscale, but with the informality of a typical Japanese restaurant, where the deeply convivial atmosphere is as important as the food.
Gyu-Kaku is a huge franchise with dozens of restaurants throughout Japan and the U.S. Think Benihana without the theatrics: Meaning decent food, great prices, and fun with a capital, "F." Don't knock it.
In addition to the above restaurants, numerous ramen joints and sake bars have opened up in the metropolitan area, from the famous franchise Santouka to kakurega (hole-in-the-wall) shops staffed by people here only a few months to the well-hidden Sakagura.
Related: Best Sushi Restaurants in NYC
From NYC to Japan:
Union Square Cafe
At the Tokyo location of this NYC favorite, there are more items on the menu, plus, it also has a tasting menu. The same devotion to quality ingredients and simple preparations can be found at this outpost in a huge, fancy-pants shopping mall in Roppongi Midtown.
Dean & Deluca
There are eighteen of these shops in Japan. No country loves coffee more than the Japanese, and no place is more willing and able to spend money on delicious food. Some of the shops here also offer cooking classes and wine seminars.
The menu at JG Tokyo, located in Roppongi, is as French and refined as Jean Georges's Nougatine in NYC. Prix-fixe lunch is even cheaper than in the U.S. at about $40 for four courses, which includes tax and tip compared to two courses in Manhattan at $48, plus tax and tip. The only catch is the flight to Japan. That's extra.
There are two Sarabeth locations in Japan. One is inside a big department store in the frenetic Shinjuku part of Tokyo, and the other is in the posh Daikanyama section of Shibuya. Either way, both offer a slice of NYC.
Within the Ark Hills of Roppongi, you'll find the same crazy-delicious sandwiches, breakfast items, and pies, as well as an atmosphere that calls to the original Bubby's in Tribeca. Rest assured, the restaurant is popular with both ex-pats and Japanese locals.
It's not the air-hanger sized Eataly that you may know from Union Square, but this branch of the wonderful Italian food emporium is every bit as great. Italian food is the latest craze in Japan, and with fierce competition, and this establishment sets the bar.
Sushi Bar Yasuda
In NYC, the top man at Sushi Yasuda (pictured) in Turtle Bay was Naomichi Yasuda, and if you went there when he was in charge, you'll probably remember his big smile and jokes about martial arts peppered with Hebrew phrases he learned from his Israeli instructor. He returned recently to Tokyo to open a sushi bar in the Minato-ku section of town.
Other places are opening up in both directions. Expect to see Shake Shake take Japan by storm. And don't be surprised if tonkatsu (fried pork) emerges as the next big thing stateside.