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“Matsugen, By Guest Reviewer Kathleen Squires”


  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Asian Tribeca Moderate Great

I lived in culinary heaven this past fall. It’s the land of delicious plenty that holds the most Michelin stars in the world. The very same nirvana that Food & Wine anointed the best restaurant city this year. Yes, I speak of Tokyo.

During my blissful three months there, I ate at 66 restaurants. I could count the “bad” meals on one finger; the “mediocre” on one hand. Exploring new eateries was so exciting that only a few favorites were reserved for repeat visits. One of those honorees was a small, stylish, local spot in my Azabu-juban neighborhood, an outpost of about a dozen restaurants called Matsugen.

My neighborhood Matsugen was a sexy, compact little spot that made the most out of its limited space. Patrons hung their coats along the bronze-colored walls before sitting around at a square bar that surrounded two busy chefs attending to a charcoal grill. We always won our fair share of curious glances as the only gai-jin in the room. The rest of the crowd ranged from local business types to young couples to the odd hooker and John. I loved how the waiters generously poured sake so that my cup overflowed into the accompanying wooden box. I was fascinated by the action at the grill and the bites that emerged: blocks of firm tofu, pounded thin, then charred; skewers of asparagus and eel; sizzling pork belly; buttery wagyu beef tataki. Tucked inside the far wall, there was a small, hidden kitchen, where cooks delicately fried tempura and rolled out delicious, wholesome soba noodles by hand.

As my time in Japan came to a close, I sadly left Matsugen behind and though I knew that I was not alone in my admiration for it, I was surprised to find out that it happens to be one of uber-chef Jean George Vongerichten’s favorite Tokyo restaurants. And just when I started to wonder when I might be able to go back to Matsugen, Matsugen came to me, courtesy of Mr. Vongerichten himself.

JGV has partnered up with the Matsushita brothers, owners of the Japanese chain, to effortlessly slip a branch into Tribeca. While the space is much more vast than my precious little Tokyo gem, it’s as authentic as if it came in a kit with directions for assembly. The room has a spare, but warm, Japanese aesthetic, with oak and ebony wood tones playing off wire mesh dividers, sectioning off areas for intimacy. There’s a long sushi prep bar; an equally lengthy communal table; and a loun ... [more, click below]

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Other restaurants in Tribeca :
+ Lunchbox Food Company--Closed   + 66: THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED   + Ola-- Closed   + Bouley   + Dominic   + Landmarc   + Pace-- Closed   + EN Japanese Brasserie   + Centrico   + Cercle Rouge   + The Harrison   + Turks & Frogs Tribeca   + Devin Tavern   + Dani-- Closed Now   + Bacaro/Smith & Mills   + The Harrison   + Matsugen, By Guest Reviewer Kathleen Squires   + Forge   + Macao Trading Company   + Harbour   + Review text tbd...   + Mehtaphor   + Brushstroke   + Jung Sik   


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