Last night we hopped out to Teshigotoya, an unassuming little spot bristling with great bites, unexpected sake and tapas pairings, and a very exciting range of shochu cocktails. What delights befell us! Buried in deepest East Village, Teshigotoya offers a simple, comfortable dining room, bar, and open kitchen in which the chefs work at a focused, measured pace to the sweet strains of Marvin Gaye and TLC. What they’re busy preparing is right on the nose of the current izakaya trend– nailing interesting combinations of western flavor with Japanese tradition to produce awesome small plates, perfect for sharing and full of unusual flavor, texture, and umami.
We started perusing the drinks list, which offered up some imaginative combinations of shochu, seasonal fruit, and soda. We narrowly decided against a pair of nice, tall gummi bear-hi, in which that timeless, chewy workhorse gets a shochu bath, for yuzu-chu and gari-chu. The yuzu-chu, a combination of shochu and fragrant yuzu citrus, was bright and clean, with just a hint of juicy sweetness. The gari-chu came packed with pickled ginger, offering a bracing combination of sharp ginger flavor and mellow shochu.
We started with the chef’s omakase selection of five flavors. They came beautifully arranged and reminded us again of the diversity of the Japanese plate. Shavings of exquisite imberico ham lay nested beside a kind of Japanese take on ceviche featuring yellow tail and octopus. A couple of squares of perfectly prepared potato salad stood at attention beside a short stack of pickled radish, each nicely offsetting the other. Cured shrimp centered the plate, intermingled with asparagus and pepper-dusted. We popped them into our mouths with eager, plucky chopsticks.
Shishito pepper arrived deep fried in a light, friendly batter and paired with a pungent tapenade, again proving the Teshigotoya affinity not only for east-west pairings but impressive leaps of flavor combination. A platter of garlic bread came saturated with gooey, warm cheese and an uni sauce. We pulled the pieces apart and sank our teeth into the baked treats like kids.
A platter of gently prepared pasta tossed with garlic and tomato rounded off the meal, marking a departure from anything classically considered Japanese but again expressing the range of the izakaya. By now we had polished off our yuzu-chu and gari-chu, moving on to tall glasses of chilled asahiyama junmai. The Asahi brewery, it turns out, produces this fine sake. Our the glasses came in saucers, allowing the waitress to pour to overflowing. After drinking the cup down a bit, we tipped our saucers, enjoying that extra sip or two that had spilled forth.
The only down side was Teshigotoya was out of a few things on the menu, including its celebrated croquettes. It was a set back that sent us rushing back to the menu a few times. Additional items and specials are chalked all over the walls in rather bewildering direct translations from the Japanese that had one of us in hysterics and the other scratching her head. Where Teshigotoya missed the mark, it more than made up for in bubbly personality. Our waitress popped back over regularly, topping up our asahiyama junmai and chatting with us about life in the city. “I work three jobs,” she mused. “But I’m still broke!”
We’ll be back and it will be interesting to see how the menu adapts to the coming change in season and new offerings as the weather cools and winter approaches. With most dishes running $8 to $15, Teshigotoya offer a nice range with a sense of humor at a relatively easy price point.
Four hops for Teshigotoya!
432 East 13th Street
New York, NY
M-S, 3:30 pm – 10:50 pm
Sundays and holidays: 5:30 – 10:30