By Dane Feldman

Photo by Dane Feldman.

Kobeyaki currently has two locations, one in Bryant Park and one in Chelsea. A third Manhattan location is expected to open on the Upper East Side. This review will focus specifically on the Chelsea location on 7th Avenue.

The food
Kobeyaki’s website contains a simple, but catching statement: “a fresh approach to Japanese food.” I can certainly attest to the fact that this is true.

The restaurant offers four kinds of entrees: rolls, bowls, burgers & buns, and salads. The rolls are all a bit further outside the box than your typical sushi roll. Even the California roll at Kobeyaki is surprisingly interesting: fresh water crab meat (real crab!), Japanese mayo, avocado, cucumber, and toasted black and white sesame seeds. Another cooked roll on offer is the grilled vegetable roll: Portobello, tempura sweet potato, carrot, avocado, teriyaki onions, unagi sauce, and kaiware. Raw and broiled rolls are also on the menu.

During my first trip to Kobeyaki, I was almost too overwhelmed to make a decision. I figured I’d order a bowl but the decisions don’t end there. Bowls can be served with white rice, brown rice, udon noodles, or as salads. I went for the udon noodles and had the grilled shrimp (beef, chicken, and vegetable are the other options). It came with grilled edamame, portobello mushrooms, zucchini, onions, carrots, scallions, and sesame seeds, as all bowls do. It was absolutely delicious, came with plenty of vegetables and shrimp, and the teriyaki sauce even had a bit of a bite to it.

If this isn’t enough to lure you into Kobeyaki, the restaurant also serves salad, sides, soup (including, yes, ramen), pork buns, soft shell crab buns (I’m curious about this one) and burgers.

During my walk over to Kobeyaki, I mulled over the kobe beef burger (wagyu beef, teriyaki onions, teriyaki ketchup, and spicy mayo) and the spicy tuna burger (spicy tuna, miso onions, spicy mayo, and wasabi mayo). Both burgers come topped with lettuce, cucumber, carrot, cabbage, scallions, and kaiware. Perhaps it was just sheer paralysis that pushed me into choosing a bowl over a burger, but next time I’ll definitely order a burger. But will it be the beef or the tuna? The other options are just as enticing: the chicken teriyaki burger (chicken, teriyaki onions, teriyaki ketchup, and spicy mayo) and the grilled veggi burger (grilled vegetables, portobello, cream cheese, panko, spicy mayo, and nori) also come topped with lettuce, cucumber, carrot, cabbage, scallions, and kaiware.

The drinks
Kobeyaki offers soft drinks, fountain green tea, fountain unsweetened tea, two types of bottled green tea, three types of hot green tea, water, beer, wine, and three types of sake.

The service/ambience
Kobeyaki is set up like a typical New York lunch quick-stop lunch spot. Order at the counter, pick up at the counter, dine in, or take out, but the addition of alcohol to their menu helps keep some patrons hanging around for longer than the usual lunch crowd might. It also encourages patrons to come to Kobeyaki for a quick and easy dinner. Kobe beef and sake without a reservation seems pretty enticing to me.

The staff is friendly and the restaurant as a whole is pretty unpretentious. I personally couldn’t see myself taking a fancy date here, but Kobeyaki seems a fitting restaurant for pretty much anything else.