As you might’ve already figured out by now, we love having Japanese omakase meals for birthday celebrations. Tie’s was no different. Having heard great things about Kura, we headed to St Marks that night with two friends. There’s a single table for a party of 4-6 people by the window, but every other seat was by the counter watching Chef Ishizuka carefully prepare each course. I loved how intimate the setting was and it felt like an authentic Japanese restaurant, from the minimalist noren outside to the wooden sake boxes inside. Although we made reservations weeks in advance, if you’re lucky you may be able to secure some walk-in seating as we’d seen some people do.
A few years ago, Tie and I got to check out Dale Chihuly’s glass exhibition in Seattle during one of our layovers. After we heard there was going to be another Chihuly exhibit right here in the New York Botanical Garden, we leapt at the chance to go. As it is currently summertime in the city, this was the perfect chance for a nice evening stroll to enjoy art in the park. In August, every Thursday night the NYBG stays open past its normal hours for visitors to revel in the glass structures when they are all lit up. Tickets are a bit pricier at $35 apiece (or $31.50 if you use your Mastercard). There’s a parking structure nearby for $15, but we found street parking a few blocks away. We went shortly before sunset and stayed until after dark, which was when it got more crowded and became selfies galore. It was a nice, romantic date despite the mosquitoes attacking Tie’s legs. There were musical performances and a modern dance troupe that rather confused me. When it was still light out, we were able to read the giant posterboards placed around the garden, which contained poetry written by local students inspired by Chihuly’s work.
Last night we celebrated our friend Albert’s birthday at Gaijin in Astoria, Queens. Gaijin (written as 外人 in Japanese) means “foreigner,” and Chef Mark fully embraces his identity, putting a new spin on traditional Japanese omakase. The restaurant has only been open for five months but it was completely full when we went. A few weeks earlier, we reserved the seats by the bar (there are 8 available) for the $125 full omakase (chef’s choice). Table seating is for guests ordering a la carte. There were three people preparing the food behind the counter so service was a bit on the slower side, but the wait staff were all very courteous and refilled the genmaicha (brown rice green tea) we ordered without extra charge.