Tsukushi, 300 East 41st Street, New York; (212) 599-8888.
As a Japanese friend explained to me, "After a night of drink, drink, drink in Japan you need something salty and greasy to eat." Enter ramen. Enter Tsukushi, a hidden joint in midtown Manhattan. I'm a huge fan of Tsukushi, a restaurant with a big black door without a sign that serves katei ryori, homestyle cooking. There's no menu here, the chef chooses a course of raw and cooked dishes from seasonal ingredients. It's one of the most authentically Japanese places in New York. My last dinner there included flowering rape shoots -- a symbol of spring -- and motsuni, a down-home, soy-sauce and ginger flavored pork intestine stew.
But I never knew, until a chef friend casually mentioned it recently, that Tsukushi also has a second menu, one that starts after 10pm and lasts until two in the morning. A menu to complement a night of drink, drink, drink.
My girlfriend and I didn't go drink, drink, drink this eve but we did jones some serious ramen. So we headed to Tsukushi late night, which was already packed with businessmen, ties loosened and talking baseball. We ordered the ramen -- they serve only one kind, a soy sauce-flavored chicken and bonito stock with toothsome noodles, tender roast pork and half a hard boiled egg. Sublime and delicious. We ate it the Tokyo way, along with edamame and a tall bottle of Asahi.
Around midnight, chefs from other Japanese restaurants started filtering in, just off from work. I met Akaboshi-san from Sushi of Gari (another great restaurant, fyi), who once cooked for the Japanese embassy in Beirut and loves Middle Eastern cuisine (He once served me tuna sashimi with tahini, a perfect combination if you think about it). He and his friends were ready to cut loose this Friday eve -- no lunch service on Saturday, no need to wake up early.