Walking up to the discreet entryway on St. Marks Place in New York City’s energetic East Village neighborhood, guests must first decipher a secret code to enter The Office of Mr. Moto: an omakase restaurant and private museum imbuing a thoughtfully curated culinary journey through the rich history of 19th-century Japan.
A labyrinth of intimately designed spaces draws guests into the journey of the fictional Mr. Moto: a well-bred gourmand and art connoisseur who traveled the high seas aboard the USS Susquehanna in 1853.
Swarthy-toned walls and dimly lit interiors feature historic Japanese artifacts that collectively contribute to the conjured Mr. Moto narrative: the first-ever English language newspaper to run in Japan, a six-foot-long replica of a 19th century US naval ship (hidden behind a painting), an 1883 map of Tokyo Bay (where the USS Susquehanna first landed), and one of the first Japanese payphones are just a fraction of the global treasures he accumulated over the years.
The curated 21-course Edomae-style omakase menu highlights the land of the rising sun — a.k.a Japan’s — heritage-rich gastronomy scene in depth. Those who sit at the six-seat sushi counter, built in traditional Japanese style from a single piece of white oak, can spectate the restaurant’s sushi chefs precisely slice and assemble artful concoctions suffusing fresh fish flown in daily from Japan. From start to finish, the step-by-step tasting menu blew our tastebuds away. The dinner commences with seasonal starters, beginning with Hotaruika (firefly squid with miso vinaigrette) and Chawanmushi (savory egg custard), then segueing into Oshizushi (traditional 18th-century pressed sushi). Later on, the Edomae Sushi course kicks off via one-bite nigiri renditions, which sees the serving of Anago (sea eel), Kamasu (barracuda), and Yagara (coyote fish). Other standouts later on include the Uni (sea urchin) and Temaki (hand roll).
Drinks-wise, consider ordering an alcoholic beverage from “The Classic Pairings” or “The Commodore’s Pairings,” which spotlights seasonal sakes and wines curated to complement the seasonal menu.
Before the evening comes to a final close, guests should slink down to the debonair speakeasy, The Library, for a final nightcap. Accompanied by a self-playing piano, the space hosts an intimate seating selection, allowing people to share post-dinner conversations while appreciating the surrounding Japanese antiques.
It’s safe to say that The Office of Mr. Moto is truly an experiential journey through the senses, from the time you punch the code into the entrance’s hidden keypad to its unrivaled omakase offerings, and the unprepossessing speakeasy downstairs.
Location: East Village, New York City
Cuisine: Japanese Omakase
Price Point: $$$$
Takes Reservations: Yes – Tock
The vibe: An unprepossessing omakase restaurant, speakeasy, and museum.
Our favorite thing on the menu: Another unique part of The Office of Mr. Moto is that guests cannot review the menu until after the dining experience. Delivered in an envelope with a teal stamped seal, we read everything we tasted from the savory Chawanmushi egg custard to the 16 pieces of Nigiri, and it’s safe to say that the torched fatty Toro (tuna) topped with caviar was without a doubt the winner.
The attire based on the vibe: Smart casual
Brunch, Lunch, or Dinner: Dinner: Wednesday – Sunday 6 pm – 12 am with reservation times at 6 pm or 8:30 pm.
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