Review: Kyotofu – Japan in NYC
So you want a light bite, some coffee or tea or sake, healthy food, atmosphere cozy and unpretentious, but sophisticated, even romantic? Search no further than Hell’s Kitchen for the Japanese dessert bar Kyotofu (705 Ninth Ave. bet. W. 47th & W. 48th Sts.). Originally from Kyoto and other Japanese locations, you can also find a spot in Seoul, South Korea, plus the products are sold at Dean & Deluca and served on eastbound ANA flights from the US. Opened in 2006 here, they’ve been New York Magazine’s cupcake champs since ’10. And it’s all based upon the humble soybean. You’d never know it by the universal raves they receive and the always-happily occupied seats in the bar and dining areas.
The staff is mostly Japanese and totally knowledgeable about the authentic modern Japanese fusion menu (on my four dinner, sake, and dessert visits with a single gentleman friend on various weeknights), and the crowd is mixed but heavily Asian. This is the real deal, not an otaku novelty hang-out— beautiful, modern, clean-white décor, soft indirect lighting, fresh, like all the food and drink they serve. My in-house dinner favorites include the cha soba noodles or the curry rice (kurobuta sausage added) and warm sweet potato cake for dessert. My go-to sake there is the Ginjo Dewazakura “Oka” Yamagata with its light and delicate taste and aroma of cherry blossoms. (starters: $7-$12, sides: $4-$6, “comfort mains”: $10-$16, prix fixe sampler of starter + bento: $24, desserts: $8-$12, prix fixe sampler for 2 of 3-course dessert chef’s selection: $28).
For special occasions or just everyday opulence, they put together these lovely and abundantly filled gift assortment boxes that ship easily and safely ($14-$48). They are beautiful in their subtle and elegant attention to detail (e.g., hand-tied double ribbons to seal the box) and inside are neatly-sealed packages nicely shareable by 2 or just fine for tea for one. There was nothing in their limited edition Valentine’s Day assortments (that can be purchased in other gift boxes year-round) that I didn’t like. The valrhona miso chocolate brownies are rich, soft, gooey—outstanding! My favs were anything with strawberry—cupcakes or little flower-shaped financiers that pop in your mouth and fill it with flavor that is like a soft fragrance—they tasted of freshly picked strawberries dancing on your tongue! The shortbread cookies did not taste like they were missing any butter (brown rice, black sesame, green tea, and my favorite – citrus) and were both a great balance of savory and sweet. The bite-sized cupcakes have lush and giant flavor and you cannot help but smile when you eat them.
Well worth the special trip that people tweet about and come from out of town to experience. Besides the restaurant, there’s online sales and a bakery for take-home delights. Let Date Night, Fun Night, Anything-Night Begin!