by Linda Viertel –
Another star in Tarrytown’s restaurant firmament opened on July 20th– My Tokyo Sushi + Kitchen, an informal, Japanese eatery featuring classic sushi, sashimi and tempura offerings, but with the added twist of poke bowls, izakaya-style small plates, and classy noodle dishes. The brainchild of Harry Cha, a Culinary Institute trained chef with a background at Charlie Palmer’s famed Aureole in Manhattan, My Tokyo contributes hip new dishes to our rivertown’s burgeoning dining scene.
Chef Cha began cooking at his Korean parents’ Japanese restaurant in New Paltz, but eager to experience different types of cuisines, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America where he honed his skills and learned diverse cuisine techniques. “A great opportunity to improve and develop myself,” he said. He and his wife, Eloise Im, who designed the charming “My Tokyo” graphic, moved to Tarrytown where they are enjoying “…the village’s calm and friendly atmosphere, with a thriving restaurant scene,” he noted.
My Tokyo fulfills Chef Cha’s mission of wanting to serve “late night food” in an informal family-oriented bistro style, while expanding his menu beyond traditional sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls. His signature dishes stem from the izakaya tradition – a type of informal Japanese pub serving inexpensive dishes and snacks, they are casual places for after-work dining often compared to tapas bars. A small dish feature – juicy Gyoza, are Japanese potstickers fried to crisp perfection, and filled either with pork or vegetables. The surprise is the crisp lacy crepe-like “skirt” that surrounds and connects the moon-shaped dumplings, adding a delightful light crunch. Another appetizer “must” is Chef Cha’s karaage, Japanese fried chicken, exhibiting both a moist interior and a heavenly crisp exterior, far superior to many American fried chicken dishes. It’s served, if desired, with a chili sauce that is an excellent complementary condiment. Another revelatory small plate popular in izakaya eateries is the okonomiyaki – a stuffed savory pancake. In Chef Cha’s deft culinary fashion, his features bacon, shrimp and cabbage and is topped with bonito flakes, which can be served on the side. My Tokyo’s okonomiyaki manages to combine a crisp top and bottom with a creamy, delicate interior, plus the pancakes arrive with a fun lattice work made of kewpie mayonnaise (rice vinegar replaces vinegar as an ingredient). Other small plates include sweet potato fries or a mini tempura basket and salmon carpaccio- plenty of delicacies to choose from.
Five salad choices provide unusual variety, all sublimely fresh and bright tasting. A sparkling ginger dressing predominates in the greens and avocado salad. The sashimi salad, filled with assorted fresh fish such as fluke or salmon, refreshes the palate with a yuzu vinaigrette and thinly sliced orange. Chef Cha’s warm salad combines seared salmon with shitake mushrooms, mixed greens, pecans and fresh tomato, all bathed in a delicate ponzu sauce.
Generous rice bowls, which come with first-rate miso soup and home-cured pickles, have swiftly become a popular dish at My Tokyo and are fun to share. The poke bowl, with your choice of salmon or tuna, is already a signature menu item. But, customers have a choice of seven options, depending upon a preference for tempura, fried pork cutlet, egg, chicken, or shitakes- the choices are all tasty and plentiful.
On the “Kitchen” section of the menu, customers will find teriyaki (chicken, salmon, shrimp or beef), tonkatsu – a fried pork cutlet complemented by thinly shredded cabbage slaw topped with a creamy peanut sauce, or a full tempura dinner. But, perhaps the favorite Kitchen item at My Tokyo’s is the hearty kimchi yakisoba, Chef Cha’s Japanese stir-fry combination of kimchi, shrimp, bacon, cabbage, mushroom and tomato. His noodles soak up so many different tastes: sweet, salty, sour and umami. Silken noodles, crunchy kimchi, chewy bacon pieces and deep fried shrimp all provide texture while melding in superb balance.
My Tokyo provides 21 choices of fresh sushi (2 pieces per order) or sashimi, all reasonably priced. Sushi or sashimi dinners or plates can be ordered for a larger number of pieces and come with miso. Lest I forget, Chef Cha’s miso is smoky, smooth, and heavenly. He says the rich broth is his secret. Nineteen roll options and fifteen special roll choices give sushi lovers multiple reasons to keep returning to My Tokyo, and Chef Cha’s rolls can be modified with add-ons or differing choices, not usual in most sushi restaurants.
Lunch is a perfect time to sample My Tokyo’s teriyaki box, poke bowl, sushi boxes, or a selection of sushi rolls – all wise choices for take-out too. But, don’t miss dining in the charming interior (plus one sidewalk table) designed by Cha’s wife, Eloise Im; they both renovated the interior themselves, making aesthetic use of exposed brick, ceiling pipes, and wood flooring to give an industrial yet warm feel to the restaurant. Seating for approximately 30 fills up quickly at dinner time. And, since Chef Cha will be changing the menu seasonally with new creations (think steaming noodle soups brimming with vegetables, shrimp, bacon and kimchi this winter), My Tokyo is bound to stay full year-round.
If You Go:
31 Main Street, Tarrytown
909-4451, 909-4452 (Take-out available)
Hours: Tues.-Fri. 11:30-4 p.m./5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
Sat.-Sun. 11:30-9:30 p.m.
BYOB: beer, wine and sake coming soon