Now open for 54 years and last reviewed by the Times in 1963, Midtown’s Restaurant Nippon is this week’s recipient of a Pete Wells review, in which the critic awards one star to the venerable Japanese restaurant for its “traditional Japanese food, nearly all of it good and some of it better than that.”
Nippon at 155 East 52nd St. was founded by the late Nobuyoshi Kuraoka, who died in January, but in his life was honored by the Japanese government for “outstanding contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture through Japanese food.” Since then, longtime general manager Yasuhiro Makoshi has taken over with chef Akira Azuma, and not much has changed on both the food and decor fronts.
Wells particularly liked the sukiyaki and its throwback history:
There it was: the onions, shiitake caps, bok choi stems, tofu blocks and the frizzy mop of noodles under a cloud of steam. The thin slices of beef going from red to pale pink. The hot broth that is based on soy and mirin but that strangely, magically tastes like French onion soup. The raw egg that, thanks to some long-forgotten cook’s flash of greatness, serves as a dipping sauce.
This refresher course would have been unnecessary if I’d made myself a regular at Nippon years ago. The restaurant opened in August 1963, a few doors west of its current address, and has offered sukiyaki since the beginning.
Other dishes he enjoyed include “nutty, bouncy, springy, slightly rough and very good” soba noodles, beef oroshi, and kamonabe, while the negimaki was not his favorite. One star.