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O Ya

O Ya

120 E 28th Street
New York, NY 10016
212 204 0200
o-ya.restaurant
Hours:
M-Sa 5:30pm-10pm
Established: June 2015

Tucked away behind a small, elegant display of earthy bamboo, stone rocks and brick walls lies the intimate setting of O Ya, an esteemed restaurant known to bring intense, Japanese-oriented flavor into small, savory bites. When I came for Friends and Family night – prior to the official opening – with my husband and friends, we were taken aback by the seamless attention to detail from each morsel of food to every inch of aesthetic element.

Chef Tim Cushman and Sake Sommelier Nancy Cushman first opened O Ya at the site of an old Boston firehouse in 2007. In 2015, they opened their New York City location that connects to Park South, a newly renovated boutique hotel with a beautiful rooftop bar. Chef Cushman got his start in the culinary world by chance. He had traveled to Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career and accepted a position in a restaurant to help support himself. Since then, Tim has brought fine cooking across the globe, achieving multiple accolades throughout his journey. Nancy found a love for sake when she first experienced it in her hometown, Chicago. She is one of fewer than 100 people worldwide to complete the Advanced Sake Professional Course in Japan. Together, the well-qualified husband-and-wife-duo gives O Ya a seamless marriage of flavor and finesse.

The interior of O Ya is an organic cohesion of wood-based décor garnished with precious sake bottles, antique sake kuras, orchid flowers, Japanese engravings, and a luscious cherry blossom plant. The majority of light is sourced from beams on the ceiling, and the sixty seats are a cozy mix of booths, tables, and stools pulled up to the lengthy sushi bar. Men in black caps and white aprons stand behind this glorious sushi bar, slicing away with concentrated precision. I was in awe as I watched one handle a massive bright red, raw kinmedai fish in so delicate a fashion. As I found my place at our table, most of the staff kept their focus, but one looked up with a smile as if to say, “You are in good hands tonight.”

Seated, each of us was given a set of wooden chopsticks along with a unique chopstick rest – almost no two were the same. Our waiter started our friends out with a bite-sized ocean trout sushi, which they discovered had been flash cooked for a few seconds to heighten its spices. They were overflowing with praise, promising us that they had never tasted anything quite like it. Little did they realize how much more was to come. The chef’s tasting menu, a momentous affair of bite-after-bite for eighteen ($185.00) or twenty-four ($245.00) courses, is brimming with innovative flavor flowing fluidly from one plate to the next.

Shortly after applauding one dish, another arrived, this time a pink hamachi dowsed in truffle oil, followed by warm eel prepared with Thai basil and succulent sauces, and then a surprise warm chive and tamago omelet – dish after dish were truly layered works of art. Our friends favored the lobster on a house made potato chip until, of course, the Toro came out – flavorfully spiced raw pink tuna with green onion. A delectable fried kumamoto oyster topped with squid ink foam, and then a vibrant sea urchin comprised of greens, oranges, and reds. Attempting to figure out the various components of the dishes, as they were presented, became part of the evening’s entertainment.

Our friends continued to be charmed by the foie gras nigri in a balsamic chocolate kabayaku, paired with an eight-year-old saki, while my husband, closed his eyes as he bit into the kobe wagyu petit sirloin, savoring his small bit of heaven, and announcing that he finally understood why our daughter and son-in-law had been so overwhelmingly enthusiastic about their recent visit to O Ya’s Boston location. And for myself, I was enchanted by the vegetable plates that were set down before me – the mushroom broth with house made tofu, the lightly fried avocado tempura, and another mushroom dish with a sesame foam – piece by piece everyone’s food was a symphony of colors, tastes and textures creating an extraordinary meal for the four of us.

There is no doubt that O Ya will become a place where good company pairs nicely with superb bites and amazing sake. Dinner is an occasion to treasure, and I was pleased, and appreciative, to have been able to share in the opening of this newcomer to the Japanese dining experience in Manhattan.