As you walk around New York’s Greenwich Village you can practically throw a chopstick and hit a sushi restaurant, so what makes Japonica so special? Fork thinks it starts with the super friendly and accommodating staff and the authentic Japanese decor, but the main reason has to be the fresh and incredible sushi. The restaurant is as clean as clean can be, colorful lanterns hang everywhere.
Japonica was opened in 1978 and quickly became one of the Village’s restaurant institutions. Often very crowded, reservations are a must. The waiting area is teeny tiny and the wait can be a torment. Without a reservation, the key is to go before 6:00 pm or not long before closing. Along with tables, you can dine at the sushi bar as well. There is also a tatami room for parties.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. The huge and quick turnover ensures that every morsel presented to you is fresh and Japonica’s exacting standards ensure that it is of the best quality available. The menu is huge. A huge variety of both raw and cooked items. The menu is a little on the pricey side, but the bento boxes are a great value and the maki are both varied and inexpensive. On the other side of pricey is the quality, which is second to none, and the HUGE portions you are served really make this restaurant a value.
Fork, Tea Strainer and Chopstix met at Japonica for dinner. Japonica is one of Chopstix’s favorite haunts. This being Fork’s first trip to Japonica, Fork followed Chopstix’s lead for ordering. Being a piece of cutlery that is used to 3 courses, Fork was surprised to be told that an appetizer would be SO unnecessary.
The dinners all come with a salad to start. In most of the Japanese restaurants Fork has been to the salad served with dinner is a very sad salad. Wilted iceberg lettuce and dried up bits of carrot, usually slathered in a poor rendition of a ginger dressing. Not so here. This was a very large, extremely fresh mesclun salad mix, with bright, crisp carrots. The dressing was great. Not too thick, not too much, great balance of flavors – slightly sweet, slightly savory. Wonderful beginning to our meal.
Fork and Chopstix ordered the Deluxe Sushi. While it rings in at a whopping $35.00, the cuts of sushi are huge. The fish is very fresh, very high quality, the type of fantastic sushi you get cravings for and spend years searching for. There were 8 pieces of sushi, a salmon roll, a piece of tamago (egg cake) and Tobiko (flying fish caviar). By the time Chopstix and Fork finished, we were stuffed to the gills (we love food puns, don’t you?). Many times after finishing a sushi platter your taste buds are left not completely happy or satisfied. When you finish eating sushi at Japonica, each of your taste buds has been hit and each are totally satisfied.
Tea Strainer ordered the Dinner Bento Box. This dining experience starts off with a bowl of miso soup. Once you finish your soup, placed in front of you is a large tray laden with lots of goodies. The bento box always arrives with a small garden salad, 2 vegetable dumplings, and asparagus; then a choice between 4 items – Tea Strainer chose unagi mini donburi (BBQ eel rice bowl); and then another choice between 4 items for the ‘main’ – Tea Strainer chose sushi. All this for only $24.50
Ah, dessert. A culinary adventure cannot truly be had without dessert. Because we all were so stuffed, dessert needed to be something small. Mochi Green Tea ice cream was the perfect choice. Sweet, yet small. As an explanation, mochi is actually a Japanese confection made from pulverized sticky rice, this paste then surrounds green tea ice cream. Green tea ice cream is slightly sweet and has a very nice distinct flavor.
We were allowed to eat at a very slow pace, not rushed or hassled. Water glasses constantly – and quickly – filled. All the staff smile and are accommodating. After we finished eating we were sent a glass of ice cold, sweet plum wine. Perfect ending to a perfect meal.
The wine list here is great – we went through TWO bottles between three pieces of cutlery! Beer is also available. Definitely make a reservation – or go at off hours. If all else fails, they deliver! PJs, sushi and a Godzilla movie, sounds like a plan to me!