New York City has long been flush with terrific Japanese restaurants, so much so that it’s hard to choose among the countless options — from yakitori shops and sushi dens to ramen spots and izakaya stops. It’s hard to stand out, but that’s exactly what Nikutei Futago does.
Opened in Soho in May 2022 by twins (hence futago, “twins” in Japanese) Sunchol and Sunbong Lee, the splurge-worthy Osaka-style restaurant is the first U.S. outpost of a pair of locations in Tokyo. The Lee brothers are also known for the more casual Yakiniku Futago chain, which has nearly 100 locations throughout Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the U.S. Nikutei, unsurprisingly, translates to “a special space that connects the everyday and the extraordinary.” Here’s everything you need to know before you go.
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1. Be prepared to be transported.
Once you step through the unassuming walnut wood door and into a peaceful Zen garden, busy West Broadway could not seem further away. The best seats in the house are in the room adjacent to that garden, where patrons dine overlooking artfully arranged stones, a brilliant Japanese maple, bonsai conifers and a trickling bamboo sōzu. You’re suddenly in Tokyo, or Kyoto, or Osaka — anywhere in Japan and anywhere but New York City. Throughout the elegantly simple, blond-wood space, each of the 38 seats, grouped within rooms named for different breeds of cattle, share the same sense of relaxed intimacy. It’s the ultimate spot for that discreet date or romantic celebration. A tatami room, up a hidden staircase, is the perfect retreat for a private party.
2. And be prepared to eat meat.
A5 wagyu — the highest quality grade of Japanese beef, and among the most richly flavored — is the star here and it is incorporated into nearly every dish, which, according to the restaurant, “cannot be altered to accommodate substitutions for vegetarians, vegans or gluten allergies”… so non-meat eaters be aware. What you’ll encounter: all manner of intricately farmed, generously marbled and extremely tender beef varieties, including intensely buttery Kobe; Ozaki, known for its concentrated aftertaste; and Miyazaki, a consistent champion of the Japanese wagyu Olympics. Yes, that is a real thing.
3. It’s tasting menu only.
This is the wrong place to be in a hurry, so relax and settle in for well-paced, three-hour, 12-course meal. Think of it as a meat omakase, where you choose between a seasonal tasting ($320) or the premium A5 wagyu tasting ($360), which servers attired in kimonos will grill or finish tableside.
Among the standouts: niku sushi, which features a silken slice of Mizayaki top round, draped around aka-shari rice and topped with ossetra caviar; a slider-like sweet and tangy katsu sando with kamenoko (lower thigh) wagyu with a dab of tartar sauce and caviar; thin-sliced Ozaki ribeye sukiyaki with a generous shaving of black truffle, served in tamago egg foam; and beef tongue, thick and butterfly-cut, touched with miso and wasabi, cooked right on the table grill. Refreshing desserts may include shaved milk ice with seasonal fruit. Each course is served on handcrafted ceramics.
4. The quality ingredients come with receipts.
In case there is any doubt as to the quality or sourcing of ingredients, diners are presented with several certificates of authenticity, not only for the beef but for the award-winning rice as well. Kobe beef is even presented with the cow’s family tree, which displays the animal’s date of delivery, its farming pedigree and its lineage back to its great-grandparents.
5. The drink list is no less impressive.
A wine and sake pairing is available, with expert matches that include sake from Noguchi Naohiko, made by the “God of sake brewing;” ken daiginjo, known as a dry sake that slices through the rich meat “like a sword though tissue paper;” and high-end wines such as pinots and chardonnay from California. Beer, wine, and sake are also served à la carte.
6. The restaurant has a more budget-friendly sibling in town, too.
Yakiniku Futago in Flatiron, an offshoot of a popular barbecue chain in Japan, China and Taiwan, offers a more casual, à-la-carte barbecue experience along with rice, noodles, soups, and a full liquor license.
Nikutei Futago is currently open Tuesday to Sunday from 5 to 11:30 p.m.