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Matsugen

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From ZagatBuzz:

Reconceived for leaner times, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's former 66 space in TriBeCa returns as Matsugen, a soba specialist vending a variety of noodle dishes along with grilled items, as well as sushi and sashimi; the sleek, white-on-white space retains the same layout as its former incarnation – spacious bar/lounge area, long communal table, fishtanks separating the kitchen from the dining room – with the most notable change this time around being kinder pricing.

241 Church St., NYC; 212-925-0202

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how much higher than honmura an??

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how much higher than honmura an??

significantly. details were sometime last week on Eater.

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how much higher than honmura an??

Of course the answer to your question means little until we first determine how Matsugen's soba compares to honmura an.

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From ZagatBuzz:
Reconceived for leaner times...

If you look at the prices, it doesn't appear that JGV thinks times are lean.

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how much higher than honmura an??

Of course the answer to your question means little until we first determine how Matsugen's soba compares to honmura an.

fwiw, there seems to be only one soba dish on the menu.

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This is strictly a Matsu brothers venue...

JGV just dumped the lease and provides the press.

He says he spent several years luring them here, so that doesn't seem quite fair.

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This is strictly a Matsu brothers venue...

JGV just dumped the lease and provides the press.

He says he spent several years luring them here, so that doesn't seem quite fair.

What would you like him to say?

He has been paying rent on the space for over a year and I needed an out

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This is strictly a Matsu brothers venue...

JGV just dumped the lease and provides the press.

He says he spent several years luring them here, so that doesn't seem quite fair.

What would you like him to say?

He has been paying rent on the space for over a year and I needed an out

The failure of 66 doesn't make his other statement false. Anyhow, the plan for this space was well known a long time ago, so it's not as if it was a quick bail-out.

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This is strictly a Matsu brothers venue...

JGV just dumped the lease and provides the press.

He says he spent several years luring them here, so that doesn't seem quite fair.

What would you like him to say?

He has been paying rent on the space for over a year and I needed an out

The failure of 66 doesn't make his other statement false. Anyhow, the plan for this space was well known a long time ago, so it's not as if it was a quick bail-out.

Let's not forget they backed out once before.

Finding someone to take over a lease of a failed restaurant concept is hard enough.

Finding someone to take that lease on with this poor location is even harder. (lanlord appovals)

Most people wait years to find a replacement.

As I said, Good business move...................but don't let the smoke and mirrors fool you.

Have you ever heard a great chef call himself "useless"


Edited by CFO999 (log)

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Menu up at JGV's website...

Has no one actually been?

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The soba's not actually outrageously priced, but a lot of the rest is. I guess I'd go for the soba, unless someone else would like to drop $65 on a seared otoro appetizer (which I had at Hagi this weekend for $8.. I just don't think Matsugen's is 8X better.)

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Went to Matsugen Sat night. It was about 3/4 full around 8pm. In addition to tables, it has a nice long communal bar (probably seats 40 people if I am not wrong). Decor fairly minimalist but nice.

They recommend getting a small plate followed by something from the grill and finish up with soba. The soba dishes are good sized.. Three of us shared as it as a last course.

Homemade Tofu - very fresh. THey make it once an hour, I was told. Good sized portion for 8 dollars. accompanied by light soy based sauce.

Fluke sashimi cured in Nori - very interesting dish. Sashimi was almost a little too dry. With a little bit of nori salad. extrememly good.

Steamed Eel - Revelatory. Subtle, delicate yet very very tasty.

Kyoto style pickled vegetables - excellent.

Chilled asparagus with sesame sauce - good.

Oysters – I did not have them but my wife said they were good.

Matsugen special soba with egg and variety of vegetables. Good way of ending the meal.

Overall, the quality of ingredients was very high. Preparations were extremely precise. It is not that outrageously priced. Quality reminds me of the likes of Sugiyama in their hayday.

I can confirm that it is under JG management. Briefly met one of the Matsu brothers. Extremely nice gentleman. We were asked by three separate people on how our food had been. Overall, a really nice experience. Definitely going back.

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Overall, the quality of ingredients was very high. Preparations were extremely precise. It is not that outrageously priced. Quality reminds me of the likes of Sugiyama in their hayday.

Perhaps not outrageous, but "Reconceived for leaner times"? I'll definitely check it out - JGV is very serious about his Japanese food as are the Matsu brothers... however, the trend for the past 15 years in Japan is to reject the "bubble" economy and make high-end Japanese food more attainable for shrinking salaries and expense accounts.... however, in big cities all over, Japanese food is immediately equated with expensive even though quality ingredients are far more readily available than before.

Not that this necessarily applies here. Sounds like you really enjoyed. Have you been to Aburiya Kinnosuke before? I'd love to compare the 2.


Edited by raji (log)

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I have never been to Aburiya Kinnosuke. Sorry can't compare. We stayed away from the expensive tuna and wagyu offerings. Also did not indulge in sushi sashimi. But at 5-8 dollars, it did not seem ridiculous for what they are aiming for quality wise.

The good thing here is - There are a lot of a la carte options that are not very expensive but the quality is high because of who they are. You can walk in, sit at the bar and have one starter and a bowl of soba for not that much money. That is my point.

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I have never been to Aburiya Kinnosuke.

You should definitely give it a try. I also wonder how Matsugen's soba compares to Soba Totto. The whole Aburiya group are very authentic Japanese that seem to operate outside of the NYC dining "scene" for better and not so much for worse.


Edited by raji (log)

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I have never been to Aburiya Kinnosuke.

You should definitely give it a try. I also wonder how Matsugen's soba compares to Soba Totto. The whole Aburiya group are very authentic Japanese that seem to operate outside of the NYC dining "scene" for better and not so much for worse.

Raji, have you been to Aburiya for lunch?

Aburiya makes a mean lunch. I actually prefer their lunch menu over dinner.

I have a feeling Matsugen will disappoint casual Japanese food lovers who will say something along the lines of "I'd rather go to Sobaya, Momofuku, Morimoto, and Nobu"

or anyone who feels ripped off by Torys, Totto, Aburiya Kinnosuke.

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I have, and I try to if I'm in midtown east at lunchtime - their lunchtime teishoku lunch is held in very high regard in the japanese community

I went there once with FG, he wrote about it here

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1448183

Anyone who feels ripped off by To* or Aburiya needs to get their ass back to Kenka

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I went to Matsugen last night. The bukkake soba is still on the menu, but written in Japanese as bukkake and Matsugen special soba in english.

We started with appetizer trio of Yuba Sashimi, Uni Sashimi in Yuzu Gelee, Chilled Asparagus in Sesame sauce.

The yuba sashimi is probably one of the best yubas I've ever eaten, served with just a bit of dashi shoyu and fresh wasabi. I enjoyed the rich, nutty, creamy simplicity.

The uni from hokkaido was very orange and very creamy, very good but not as good as some of the uni I've had at Tokyo, Hokkaido, kanoyama, and jewel bako in their prime. I prefer my uni to be firmer.

The hokkaido asparagus was perfectly blanched, but this dish seemed pretty pedestrian and like something I would make at home.

Next we had kumamoto oysters with 3 different topped sauces.

ponzu with momeji - pretty much the standard at a lot of places, but never the less very good

yuzu kosho jelly with yuzu zest - very good could have used a bit more yuzu flavor

sugar and rice vinegar - so simple but probably the best of the trio.

The oysters were very fresh and briny.

kagoshima gyu shabu shabu salad - Barely blanched kagoshima beef over mixed greens with a sesame dressing. The beef was excellent, barely cooked, tender and flavorful. The gomabara dressing tasted very fresh like the sesame was justed roasted. The atypical salad greens were kinda bland, I would have preferred mizuna or some more exotic salad greens.

We asked to substitute for Inaka soba which has a nuttier rougher texture in both our sobas. The soba itself is excellent, very chewy, nutty, and complex. I think its better than soba totto's, soba koh, even Honmura An, and leagues better than sobaya.

Bukake Uni Soba - Soba topped with Hokkaido Uni, Sesame, myoga, shiso, osen tamago, fresh wasabi, yamaimo, katsuobushi. Very good, the uni here was better than the uni in our appetizer. I'm not sure if most people will enjoy the sliminess of this dish from the yamaimo, uni, onsen tamago, once they pour the dashi on top and mix it up. A very refreshing summer dish.

Ebi tempura Zaru Soba - Cold soba with 2 pieces of Shrimp tempura, one piece of kabocha, and one piece of shiranegi, The tempura here was very weak. One piece of shrimp was overcooked and tough at one end and very greasy. The tempura batter was of the thinner variety similar to Soba Totto's which I'm not too crazy about. I would have preferred either the darker Tokyo style or the more puffier Kyoto style. The soba dipping sauce was very good, had a very strong katsuo taste and was not too salty. They only gave me some sliced shiranegi to put into my tsuyu;some wasabi, and shiso would have been nice.

Deserts were excellent.

Matsugen Parfait - Home made Matcha, and Vanilla Ice cream with Fukuoka Strawberries, Warabi Mochi, Kinako Powder, Black Sugar Syrup, Hokkaido Red Beans. The ice creams were excellent and went well with the red beans, and kinako powder tasted like it was just roasted. The strawberries did not lose their sweetness in the mixture. This actually better than some of the parfaits I've had in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hokkaido.

Anin Tofu with Strawberry Water - This was very good as well. This was probably the only almond tofu I ever had that grinded almonds in it. The strawberry water only complimented the tofu and did not overpower it.

One concern we had was how will the quality hold up once the opening team of chefs return to Tokyo(the manager mentioned to us they flew their chefs in from their Ginza location), and will they source ingredients locally eventually instead of having ingredients shipped from several different prefectures in Japan.

Also the wait staff could have done a better job explaining how to eat each dish better to diners who have never had soba before. Around us we saw other tables confused with what to do with tsuyu(pouring it directly on their soba and splashing all over themselves) and poking at their onsen tamagos. One instance we saw a girl put only grated daikon on her tempura and not mixing it with the dipping sauce and complaining it had no taste. I can see where the negative reviews are coming from.

Overall I thought the food was excellent except for the tempura and would return when it gets cooler to have their shabu shabu and perhaps try their sushi. And speaking of sushi, the restrooms are located behind the sushi counter which I thought was awkward and could be a problem for the chefs when it gets busy and people are navigating behind them while they're cutting fish.

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I went with my family last night, Bruni's pending review posted while we were dining. It was all of our first time eating soba and had a very positive experience overall. I made the reservation day-of and was told that there was room at the communal table. When we got there, we were given a very nice, spacious round table in a corner.

The waitress was very helpful in helping us order properly, and advised us to start with some raw offerings... we had the 12 pieces of sushi with one roll (a simple toro and scallion) and the Kumamoto oysters with three sauces. The oysters were fantastic and the sushi was simple, elegant, and very fresh.

We then moved on to some simple salads and an order of vegetable tempura. Both the salads and tempura were fine... nothing that really sticks out as being too memorable or off-putting. We then moved on to some grill and Shabu Shabu offerings. We had a few non-meat eaters at the table and so we went with two orders of the black cod miso and one order of the Kurobuta Pork Loin. The black cod was good... probably not the absolute best that I've had, but it was well executed. Not overwhelmingly sweet... really focused on the fish itself. The pork loin was incredible. It was melting as I picked it up with my chopsticks. It was so delicate and savory -- I really couldn't get enough.

We then moved on to all of our individual sobas. Like I said, none of us had really had soba before and the waitress was happy to explain everything to us (maybe taking the advice of previous posters?). I had the Goma-Dare and found it to be a great end to the meal. I particularly loved it when they brought over the water that the soba had been cooked in to be mixed with the sauce (I'm guessing this is a pretty standard practice?).

We had a couple of desserts... all of which were very interesting and unique -- although not what my parents' western taste buds were used to for 'dessert'. I had the Grapefruit Jelly, which was some sort of grapefruit-based gelatin put back into big grapefruit slices, looking and feeling like a real grapefruit... it was nice and refreshing. We also tried the mochi, which was lost a little on us at the table, and the Matsugen Parfait, which was probably the favorite of the bunch. A nice mix of sweetness and texture.

We really had a great time and were happy to be there for their great NYT review. As we left, we congratulated them on the great review and they seemed very pleased with it. At the door as we were leaving we were thanked by none of than JEAN-GEORGES himself... so it at least appears that he's more active than some people thought.

Anyone else give it another try it lately?

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I don't understand this place at all... We went a few weeks back and while it was passable, it was nowhere near as good as Honmura An used to be, where we had certainly eaten enough times to know what good soba ought to taste like.

Now, maybe we mis-ordered, I don't know, but the kamo seiro and kamo nanban are nowhere in the ballpark of what they were doing at Honmura An, and the rave reviews that everyone seems to be giving it are completely mystifying to me. I might call it a two star place, maybe a one, but to give it a strong three/almost four when many people used to call out the Honmura An 3 as being too high strikes me as completely ridiculous. Someone, please tell me I'm not nuts here.

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I haven't eaten here but in so many ways this restaurant just seems an enigma. Reports were very mixed based on what I read and suddenly Eater calls a four-star review. Surely a long shot, but I can't even imagine this place was gunning for three. As Bruni points out this is not a Japanese restaurant for the masses and its price point probably ensures that will remain the case.

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