May 23, 2009

Kyotofu - Japanese Dessert + Sake Bar

Having lived in Hell's Kitchen for 4 years, I was always on the lookout for new restaurants. Witnessing the "culinary renaissance" from 2003-2007 on 9th avenue was quite an experience.

It seemed as though everyday there would be a new restaurant or bar popping up around the corner. Some would last only a couple of months, others seemed destined to stay.

Kyotofu thankfully seems to be falling into the latter category. After opening in 2006- 3 years later they are still going strong. Opened by an ex-JP Morgan investment banker, Kyotofu looks very similar to Chikalicious downtown.

That's not a coincidence. The owner hired the same architects as the famed east village dessert bar to create a similar ambiance - simple, elegant...and most of all a feeling of "fresh and so clean."

White space abounds the tiny space - and it is tiny. On a Friday night, plan on waits exceeding 30-40 minutes if you want a spot inside, or better yet just grab a seat at the window counter for some awesome people watching. That's more my style.

I started off my meal with a "Japanese soda" - you know, the sodas with the marble inside? Somewhat of a throwback to childhood days...

Desserts are a mix between fanciful and simple. Signature desserts include their sweet tofu and the black sesame tofu. While they may appear exotic to the western taste buds - these are traditional desserts easily found down in Chinatown for a fraction of the price.

No matter, they are served exquisitely in "riedel" type glasses - and afterall, aren't we paying a premium to have it here and not in Chinatown? I'm okay with that.

The soymilk soft ice cream sundae was a delight - chocolate and vanilla swirl with a kuromitsu whipped cream, mixed berry compote and matcha mochi.

Kyotofu also serves a light appetizer menu including a japanese panko crusted mac'n'cheese and "pigs in a duvet" - berkshire pork sausage wrapped in a puff pastry.

Kyotofu also has a bakery serving up award-winning cupcakes- specialty being a chocolate souffle cupcake, homemade cookies, brownies and macaroons.

Kyotofu is reasonably priced, but they get you on the alcohol - doesn't everyone? A bountiful list of sakes and cocktails can easily push the check for two to north of $80.

Overall - I'd say Kyotofu is a fair alternative to Chikalicious if you live in the Hell's Kitchen area. But east villagers - stay downtown - the soft serve Vanilla Bean sundae at Chikalicious Dessert Club outshines any option at Kyotofu.

705 9th Ave. New York, NY

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