Restaurateur Emil Stefkov of hospitality firm the Group, responsible for the West Village’s covert, subterranean sushi den Omakase Room by Mitsu — an intimate, 14-course experience known for serving pristine seafood flown in from Japan — will expand with his second traditional Japanese restaurant: Kaiseki Room by Yamada is scheduled to open around late September. Stefkov has tapped Isao Yamada, a chef who trained at the Kyoto location of Kitcho, one of Japan’s most highly regarded, three Michelin star kaiseki counters. Most recently, Yamada opened up David Bouley’s Brushstroke in 2010 and helmed the kitchen until the restaurant shuttered in 2018. There, he focused on kaiseki executed with some French influences, and earned two stars from the New York Times.
But at his new home, which claims a modest 600-square- foot Midtown space at 145 West 53rd Street ,near 6 ½ Avenue, Yamada will focus on a more wholly Japanese menu with some high-end touches. His dedication to Japan’s highest form of culinary art is to be featured in an 11-course, hyper seasonal kaiseki omakase that he expects to price around $300.
Yamada will pay tribute to kaiseki customs in which an elegant meal — often served on trays and composed of many small dishes — is based on harmony with nature, and balance. Kaiseki cuisine, which originally began as courses served alongside tea during the 16th century, embraces varied forms of cooking methods (fried, steamed, raw, baked, simmered) with dishes composed of myriad colors and textures. And Yamada will follow kaiseki’s customary menu progression, commencing with zensai, a small appetizer such as chilled kabocha soup, and concluding with a donabe rice dish like wagyu with mushrooms. A kaiseki meal’s most important course, hassun, establishes the menu’s seasonal theme and is served toward the middle of the meal. Yamada adds that he plans to design his menu around the best fish of the moment, in addition to “mountain delicacies” that are to be confirmed.
Diners can expect Yamada to serve an elaborate menu. While kaiseki meals in Japan are usually devoid of western luxury ingredients (truffles, foie gras, caviar, etc.), there is often a focus on hyper seasonal fish and produce. But Yamada understands he’s cooking for the New York market, so he has decided to occasionally incorporate such flourishes.
Yamada’s dining room will offer just 20 seats divided between a 12-seat counter with a few additional tables. While the space, which previously was home to Italian spot Remi to Go, is still under construction, Stefkov is working with Julien Legeard of local design firm the Prestige Group, who also schemed Omakase Room by Mitsu. The intimate restaurant will feature blonde wood that curves upward, meant to envelope the diner into a serene, cocoon-like environment — a contrast from the Midtown crowds.
The upcoming opening comes at a time when sushi in New York is having a moment, but there’s also a rise in kaiseki options. Restaurants like Kajitsu, Hirohisa, and the late Kyo Ya paved the way for more recent additions like Tsukimi, Odo, the recently opened BBF, and the imminent Kappo Sono. Kaiseki Room by Yamada is expected to join this group in the fall.