Written by Hulda Lawrence
These days restaurants come to New York City from all over, and diners are able to sample fascinating cuisines without taking long trips. Inakaya is located at 231 West 40th Street in the New York Times Building between 7th and 8th Avenue (212 354-2195).
Inakaya was started in Japan as the "robata-yaki." Robata means "around a sunken hearth" and yaki is grilling. Diners surround levels where many kinds of fresh foods are cooked on grills and where individual portions are offered on long handled plates after being grilled on an open flame. The noise level is high with orders being readied for the chefs, and platters of food set on long poles are brought to individuals.
As we awaited the cooking of our choices, our server brought us edamame soy beans to nibble. The Bento Boxes are accompanied by Miso Soup and rice. Soup and salad are also served with sushi plates. There are hot dishes and cold dishes and Robata Japanese style barbecue with all kinds of vegetables, meats and seafood. Among the barbecues are Wagyu Skewered Kobe Beef cooked the way one wishes. There is chicken several ways and Black Cod Fillet, Yellowtail Fillet, Bronzini (Mediterranean Sea Bass) and Lobster. Prices of these dishes start at $9 for Chicken Wing Tips to King Deep Sea Snapper, $65.
There are salads, Sushi Plates, rolls and assorted sushi/sashimi. Sensibly, their 7 Varieties of Nigiri Sushi includes tuna, yellowtail, salmon, fluke, Spanish mackerel, cooked shrimp and eel at $25. A lunch menu is available 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday with Bento Boxes from $18. Sushi Plates present several sushi varieties. There are many kinds of vegetables from Shitake Mushrooms to Ginkgo Nuts Taro at $5 to $9 and Dried Sting Gay Fin. There are takeout orders for sushi and sashimi.
Oceanais a large, light and excellent American seafood restaurant at 1221 Avenue of the Americas (212 759-5941); diners enter on 49th Street. It is a busy place with plenty of service, and everything is a la carte. The floor to ceiling windows are draped in handsome white curtains and there are private rooms for those who want privacy. Although it is a bit noisy with a huge bar ready for visitors, it is the menu which draws those who relish good fresh seafood.
The menu at Oceana is divided to make selections easier for diners. There is section called Simply Prepared which lists Jumbo Wild Shrimps, Sea Scallops and the two choices we made for lunch. My choice was Soft Shell Crab and my companion opted for Tapioca Crusted Halibut. Prices for these dishes start at $28. Among the side dishes are Wild Mushrooms, Wilted Spinach, English Pea Risotto and French Fries from $7 to $9.
There is a Raw Bar with such delights as Wellfleet Oysters, Whelks, Periwinkles, Shrimp, Little Necks, Mussels and half a one pound lobster.
In the Appetizer section there are Peekytoe Crabcakes at $10, Watercress and Date Salad at $13, and Lobster Sandwich and Alaskan Coho Salmon Burger from $18. Main courses at lunch start with Sauteed Skate with lentils, pearl onions and oxtail, barberry-port jus, $29 and Pan Seared Walleye Pikea popular choice at $32. Whole Fishes can be ordered. There also is a section for Meats, which includes Roast Natural Amish Chicken at $28 and Black Angus Sirloin, 8 ounces is $17.
On the day we visited Oceana we began our luncheon with special drinks. My companion chose a Seahorse Julep of Makers Mark Bourbon while my drink was an Oceana cocktail of infused vodka. We noted that small made-on-the-premises rolls were accompanied by thin butter strips.
Since it was the start of the Soft Shell Crab season that was our choice. English Pea Risotto was the outstanding "side." A Caviar Cart was featured on the Brunch menu with Warm Blini and Russian Golden Osetra from $4 to $15.
From the serving staff we received good advice on the special dessert menu. There are house-made ice creams and sorbets along with Sticky Rice Pudding, Poached Rhubarb Tart, Frosted Pound Cake, Souffle and exceptional local cheeses accompanied by special teas and coffees. The pastries and sweets are all made on the premises.
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.