The name Kyo Ya either means everything to you or absolutely nothing. It's easy for those unfamiliar to ignore Kyo Ya as just another Japanese restaurant. But Kyo Ya is a name you need to know, and it's no ordinary East Village establishment. This place has a cult following as intense as any restaurant that exists in this city. If you take your Japanese food seriously, then you probably already know all this. After all, Kyo Ya has three stars from the NY Times and is one of the few Michelin starred restaurants in this neighborhood. Adding to their laundry list of accolades, Kyo Ya also now has an 8.5 rating on The Infatuation. You can retire content now, Chef Chikara Sono.
Want to impress someone who loves Japanese food? Bring them to Kyo Ya. The unmarked subterranean restaurant is a unique and amazing place. It's a dining experience that seriously stands out, makes you feel special, and leaves you wanting more. When investing a good chunk of money in a meal, that's exactly how we want to feel. This isn't your typical Japanese style omakase situation of being sped through 20 different pieces of fish on rice. Kyo Ya is a kaiseki style Japanese meal, which according to our research (Wikipedia), is a "type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food." Think Blue Hill, but for Japanese food.
You won't find typical sushi here. Aside from their signature pressed sushi, the raw part of the menu is all sashimi and not just any sashimi - this is fish of the highest quality that's been labored over, dressed up, and served in one of many beautiful handmade vessels. The menu is mainly cooked dishes of all different styles, textures, and flavors - many of which you've never tasted or heard of before.
Speaking of service, that's one of the best parts about Kyo Ya. When dining here, you're immediately made to feel a part of the Kyo Ya family. The staff are warm, friendly, and attentive. The menu can be confusing, but they make it a point to offer up an education, which we greatly appreciate. You can get the full experience with one of their $95, $120 or $150 tasting menus (all of which must be arranged at least a day prior), but sitting at the bar, ordering a la carte, and watching Chef Sono do his thing is how we usually do it. There's a permanent menu of Kyo Ya fan favorites, and also a seasonal menu that's always changing. No two trips to Kyo Ya will ever be the same, and that's exactly why we like it so much.
Uni, octopus, sea bass, snapper, mackerel, alfonsino...and of course, fatty, beautiful, glorious tuna. Order a lot of it, and it'll come in one of the most impressive spreads your eyes have ever seen. No photo available because we don't have that kind of money.
Warm salmon is pressed with a hot iron onto some incredible sticky rice. Incredible.
Here they deep fry a full sweet potato, which comes out with an incredible crispy outside layer and a firm but delicate interior. Season with Mongolian salt and drip a little soy sauce for the ultimate salty-sweet finish. This is different, interesting, and a lot of fun.
Slowly cooked Berkshire pork belly, swimming in some kind of awesome broth. Eat it.
A bowl of steamed egg custard mixed in with seafood, chicken, and vegetables. The flavors are really nice, as are the contrasting textures, and bonus points for a bit of sweetness at the end. You need your own cup of this stuff. Don't share.
Obligatory miso cod taste test at high end Japanese restaurant. This one ain't bad, however, it's also not their best dish. We'd skip it, especially considering it's one of the most expensive things on the menu.