Jukai – Uni Donburi and So Much More

Many of my favorite Japanese restaurants in NYC are hidden in plain sight. Sakagura. Abiyura Kinnosuke. The sushi place which-shall-not-be-named.

And add to this list Jukai.

Down a small set of stairs on a busy Midtown East street, Jukai is like a lunchtime trip to Tokyo. It’s small and dark, with a light sushi bar and partitioned tables that offers ultimate privacy – so very Japanese.

I ordered the set lunch, which came with these lovely dishes:

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Salad

Simple, thoughtfully comprised, well executed. Tomatoes so sweet that I swear that they must have saved them from last summer. Crispy lettuce, a few salty shavings of Parmesan, and a tangy, shallot and soy dressing. An ideal amuse bouche.

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Uni Donburi

Swoon. A jewel box treasure trove of delicacies. I upgraded – for a pretty penny – to the Santa Barbara uni. This did NOT disappoint. Multiple tongues of uni, each fresher, creamier, and cleaner than the last. They are truly the foie gras of the sea – fatty, luxurious, and the more I eat the more I want. It’s scattered with briny salmon roe, fluffy cubes of tamago, and various pickled vegetables.

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Atop warm, sticky rice…it couldn’t be more delicious. A mosaic of tastes and textures that is – in a word – perfect.

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Crème brulee

Dense, rich, vanilla-y. A surprisingly delicious French dessert to a decidedly traditional Japanese meal.

Jukai is a lovely sanctuary of Japanese delicacies. The service couldn’t be more lovely or Japanese, nor could the food and surroundings. The prices range from bargain to quite a splurge, but I feel confident in recommending anything in this charming hidden restaurant.