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Mihoko’s 21 Grams

Mihoko’s 21 Grams 1 Japanese Lounges Flatiron

21 grams was an experience that took five of us into an uncharted culture and left us not only deliciously sated, but also feeling like a welcomed and valued friend. On our first venture inside, we were working - exploring the restaurant, taking photos and observing the chef in the kitchen. Our second visit was to participate in the entire dining experience. Words cannot possibly do justice to the absolutely incredible 8 course, Franco-Japonaise works of art we consumed. With each bite, we all went silent and then looked up at each other in amazement only to find the same looks of awe on all of our faces. From the fresh rolls served with brown butter to the hollowed eggshell filled with the most decadent chicken consomme imaginable resting on an aromatic bed of lavender salt...to the potato truffle croquette with a molten cheese center, probably one of the best bites of food I have ever eaten...to the tuna tartar "sandwich"...to the thoughtfully-crafted vegetarian dishes...to the outrageous cocktails including an iced sake intermezzo...and dessert that was over-the-top chocolate souffle...we were positively dazzled. This was a meal, served by expert waiters in tailcoats, the memory of which will stick with us as we continue indulging our way across the side streets.

Dancer, set designer, costume designer, clothing designer, stylist, sculptor, holistic nutritionist, certified edomae-sushi chef, restaurateur – Mihoko Kiyokawa is an incredibly talented woman. And, perhaps, nothing proves this more than stepping inside her magnificent restaurant where her goal is to feed the soul through the passionate preparation of elegant food. Entering the restaurant, one walks down a narrow red-carpeted hallway, ornamented with clean-lined Japanese pottery and projections on the white walls. Tastefully displayed are an array of handmade Japanese teapots, dishes and other beautiful pieces, many created by Mihoko, herself. This exquisite welcoming is simply a taste of what is to follow. The main dining room contains a mixture of Japanese-French aesthetics. Each table is surrounded by a padded barrier -- reminiscent of a gift box. We found it to be dramatic and unique, paying homage to Mihoko’s former career in stage design and dance. Perfectly set, each tablecloth is pressed and glistens with shiny cutlery and ceramics – a bowl with a minuscule towel rests in the middle of each setting. When seated, bergamot-scented water will be poured over the small roll for a guest to wash their hands. While the setting is grand and luscious, upscale and ornate, with some of the men dressed in formal tails, everyone made us feel at ease. From the manager, to the bartender, to the sommelier, and even Mihoko, herself, we were greeted warmly. Within this gorgeous and amicable setting, fantastic, complex and savory food was prepared by twenty-five year old chef, Mizuho Hirakawa. We were taken into the kitchen to observe her as she delicately placed chrysanthemum petal after petal around a circle of foie gras to create a sunflower-esque presentation. We watched as she gently placed a rack of lamb on a plate and wiped away any traces of its juices from the rim before serving. As we photographed this edible art, we were invited to taste these delicacies: Foie gras with buck wheat crumble, apricot and chrysanthemum; Botan ebi tempura roll with shrimp, plum, shallot and tomato; lamb Provencal with ratatouille, lemon thyme sauce and candied pecans. Each dish was presented beautifully and the flavors intriguing -- a mix of spices, textures and colors. The Manhattan Sideways team certainly had a memorable experience exploring the extensive space of 21 Grams, including the downstairs lounge and bar, and, of course, speaking to the gracious people who have poured their hearts into 21 Grams – the supposed "weight of the soul."

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More Japanese nearby

Lost Gem
Izakaya NoMad 1 Tapas and Small Plates Japanese Late Night Eats undefined

Izakaya NoMad

Today, NoMad – short for North of Madison Square Park – is one of Manhattan’s hottest neighborhoods, but Moku, co-owner of Izakaya NoMad, could not have foreseen that when location-scouting for his New York variation of a classic Japanese izakaya (a casual bar serving small plates that pair well with alcohol). Having owned an izakaya in Korea Town, Moku wanted to bring Japanese food to a region where it was sparse. Averi, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, had an exceptional experience at Izakaya NoMad. Upon her arrival, she was greeted warmly by Moku and his team and quickly shown around the restaurant before the dinner crowd poured in. They started at the front of the house, where Moku pointed out the first section of a three-part custom mural painted by an illustrator from the School for Visual Arts, depicting NoMad infused with elements of Japanese pop culture like Godzilla and Astro Boy. From there, they moved into a long, narrow hall lined with cozy geometric booths, a long bar and open kitchen. Moku admitted that it would have been easier to have the kitchen stationed in the rear like most eateries, but he and co-founder Jay desired to be transparent about their high quality ingredients and also wanted guests to be able to interact with their culinarily well-versed yakitori chef (who coincidentally, bares the nickname Godzilla). Passing by the bar, Averi and her hosts drifted to the back of the dining room, where on an elevated platform, reconfigurable chairs rested under cubed light fixtures. Behind them, modern counters hid in an exposed brick cove with a graffiti reptilian tail tagged on the wall. Back at the front, Averi took a seat at a grand communal table wrapped in cool light from the descending sun and decorative paper lanterns overhead. Sliding doors reminiscent of shōji separate the area from the restaurant upon request, creating an ideal space for company dinners and birthday parties. Moku noted that Izakaya Nomad's design established five “unique spaces… like a maze. ” The bar was intimate and mature, the tables on the platform familial and familiar, the urban grotto youthful and hip, and the front room airy and conversation invoking. Once settled, Moku shared the novel-like menu with Averi, consisting of yakitori, sashimi, sushi, tataki, tempura, hot pots, wine, beer, and sake with informative descriptions for those who may be unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine. A waiter then brought three varieties of sake, and Moku gave Averi a brief lesson in the fermented rice alcohol. She learned that the intensity of flavor stems from how much the outer layer of each grain of rice is stripped away. For example, the harder junmai sake polishes less of the grain – only about thirty percent - so it had a strong rice taste, which Moku claims is popular with young people these days. The junmai ginjo sake takes away about forty percent of the grain, resulting in a subtle sweetness, while the junmai daiginjo removes fifty percent, leaving a “smooth” creamy texture and “less hangover. ” The junmai daiginjo was Averi's favorite of the three, crisp and refreshing with just enough punch. Moku assured her that if sake is not a guest’s "cup of tea, " an impressive list of both beer and wine are available. After drinks, Moku reviewed the custom tasting menu that had been prepared for Averi's visit. With lobster tail, soft fried tofu, sizzling butamoyasi (bacon, beansprouts onions, and chives), uni (sea urchin), and sushi, the menu was reflective of the izakaya’s overall project: to apply the best parts of the Japanese izakaya experience to a “New York market. ” In fact, Izakaya NoMad was the first izakaya around to call themselves a Japanese gastropub. For this reason, the fare served at NoMad is not exactly conventional, as it includes items like sushi and ramen to meet the demand of its clientele. Additionally, the restaurant finds creative ways to incorporate less common snacks like chicken gizzard, battered, fried, and seasoned to be accessible to the average New Yorker. When the colorful, steaming plates began to arrive at the table, it seemed like they would never stop. What a feast. The enoki mushrooms wrapped in smoked bacon, grilled chicken skewers, and the fatty tuna sushi were all delightful; though the sweet “rocket tsukune” (free range chicken meatball), juicy beef short rib yakitori, and the smoky hamachi tataki (seared yellow tail) really stole the show. Averi was surprised when Moku revealed that many of the elements do not require intense seasoning: at izakaya NoMad, they “don’t overdo things” and like to let the fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Despite the quantity of dishes, nothing was repetitive. Each item showcased its own distinct medley of delicious flavors. Incredibly humble and hospitable, Moku and Jay are adamant about focusing on the food, not themselves. While they aim to rival the product of a five-star celebrity establishment, they seek to leave pretention behind, insisting they would never judge customers for how they use chopsticks or eat sushi. “As long as you enjoy, that’s the main point, ” said Moku, “that’s our philosophy. ” Providing “an alternative to any traditional beer experience in Manhattan” with an “upscale look but casual environment, ” Izakaya NoMad has set out to be a safe, social gathering place where food, company, and alcohol can all be enjoyed without inhibition. From Averi's experience, we can verify that is certainly the case.

More places on 22nd Street

Lost Gem
The Pen and Brush 1 Art and Photography Galleries Founded Before 1930 undefined

The Pen and Brush

“We come together on the common ground of arts, letters, and women owning their own destinies, ” stated Executive Director Dawn Delikat. For well over a century, Pen and Brush has been dedicated to supporting women in the visual arts and literature. The organization was founded by two sisters and painters, Janet and Mimi Lewis, who were frustrated with being barred from art societies solely on the basis of their gender. Knowing of so many talented women suffering a similar fate, the siblings decided to create Pen and Brush to “stop asking for permission and forge their own way in the city. ”Though the group was nomadic for thirty years, it was able to purchase its first location in 1923. Decades later in the early 1960s, the ladies celebrated paying off their mortgage by dressing in their finest ballgowns and burning the contract in the fireplace. “Women persevering is as much of our understory as anything else. ” The organization carries the torch passed down by these remarkable women, whose members include First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and a number of Nobel laureates. Today, Pen and Brush’s goal remains the same, albeit adapted to twenty-first-century circumstances. As such, it makes space for both women and non-binary voices — better reflecting our evolving conceptions of the gender spectrum — and works to bring in the diversity that has been kept out of the canon “not for lack of talent, but for lack of access. ” To this end, Pen and Brush functions as an art gallery and a book publisher, where visual artists and writers from across the world can submit their work. The group evaluates submissions, seeking pieces “that need to be supported, ” either for expressing something that has not been said before or for demonstrating an incredibly high skill level. This has meant giving career-making opportunities to veteran artists looking to break the glass ceiling of their field, gifted students just out of an MFA program, and self-taught artists who received no formal introduction to the art world. Achieving true equality in the arts and letters may seem a daunting task, but Pen and Brush is tireless in its mission to give a platform to brilliant women and non-binary creators. “We can’t give up on them. We have to build into the future so that we can keep passing that torch, so maybe someday, it won’t be needed. ”