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Matsugen


ulterior epicure
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Well, if you look at the marketing; let's take some Soba masters from Japan, have them bless the place and then leave for good...let's try to class up soba while offering a rounded, Japanese menu, at TriBeCa prices... then it makes a little more sense. There's enough Japanese ex-pats tourists probably willing to go there for a while, for the setting, for the novelty, the same way one laughs off paying $9 for a can of beer at a baseball game. And there's enough American Japanese food eaters with deep pockets willing to go - hence you must have sushi on the menu. Where it might fail in the long term is if they don't really bring the focus back to the buckwheat... the soba must really stand alone as the star

This is what the Totto empire does so well.

Yakitori totto - let's cook chicken better than anyone else in the city - done

Aburiya - let's do a robatayaki better than anyone else in the city - done

...This is not exactly rocket science

Soba Totto - Let's do a standard japanese soba menu better than anyone else in the city - have they been trumped? I dunno, but totto's soba were pretty solid

After all is said and done, it's only buckwheat, people

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But- bottom line- the soba isn't that good. Offering a lot of different varieties of mediocrity doesn't make something more than mediocre. And while it is "only buckwheat", the duck broth, for example, just doesn't taste that rich or that flavorful, which is a rather large problem - but I'm apparently the only one that thinks so.

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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But- bottom line- the soba isn't that good.  Offering a lot of different varieties of mediocrity doesn't make something more than mediocre.  And while it is "only buckwheat", the duck broth, for example, just doesn't taste that rich or that flavorful, which is a rather large problem - but I'm apparently the only one that thinks so.

So most people are saying that the soba just isn't that good? Or is it that maybe Americans just don't like soba that much? I see attempts to dress it up, lather it with uni, but soba is best eaten with very minimalist accoutrements... also for some reason it works really well with tempura

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Soba noodles and duck broth - what else do you need?

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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I am not an expert on noodles by any means. I had been to Hanmura An twice. However, I have been to sushi places a lot and also like cooked Japanese dishes a lot.

I went to Matsugen for a second time this past Saturday.

1) The appetizers are very good but expensive. People enjoyed the uni dishes a lot. Also love the grilled eel app. Pickles and tofu are nice as well.

2) Noodles are very good and NOT expensive.

3) Level of service is quite high.

4) Did not try the sushi/sashimi.

5) My wife ordered the vegetable tempura and liked it a lot.

6) The miso cod was outstanding. Better than Nobu's in its heyday.

So I am not sure what the gripes are all about. If you like Japanese food, this place offers a lot of variety so that pretty much everyone can find something that is to their liking. Prices are not that high given the quality of ingredients. I agree with Bruni's three stars although I was guessing he would give it two given his tastes.

My advice, if you do not like Japanese at all, don't go. If you want to try Soba and don't want to spend too much, eat at the bar. Is it the last word in Japanese? Maybe not. However it costs much less than, say, Sugiyama.

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We went to Matsugen a week or so ago, before the Bruni review.

Overall I thought it filled a certain kind of niche: high-quality Japanese in an atmosphere that is beautiful and thoroughly Japanese in a different way than Totto, Aburiya, etc.

Matsugen is a much grander space and the design is very much in line with what I've seen in similar places in Japan.

First glaring problem looking at the menu: why is there sushi here? No self-respecting Soba place serves sushi. A few other things, maybe, but that's just not right.

Had the trio of appetizers and two were good, but the yuba didn't seem like yuba to me and my girlfriend, who is from Tokyo.

Grilled chicken was just great. Simple, delicious, and spectacular. We both had the Matsugen soba which has a lot of stuff on it. I loved it and so did she. I thought the soba quality was very high--better than Totto in fact, but I will admit that the amount of stuff on top made it hard to properly evaluate the soba.

Price, as noted before, is reasonable for soba, high for other items.

Based on quality to price ratio I would say that Aburiya for izakaya stuff and Soba Totto for soba are undoubtedly better than Matsugen. But if you want a high-end Japanese experience in a beautiful space then this place is great. Mind you I like the Aburiya space a lot, but it's going for something different: the neighborhood izakaya feel as opposed to the destination restaurant.

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Matsugen is a much grander space and the design is very much in line with what I've seen in similar places in Japan.

Really, you think so? Maybe in Aoyama, Ginza and other touristy places... that place would be considered huge and unique by Tokyo/Japan standards...

Based on quality to price ratio I would say that Aburiya for izakaya stuff and Soba Totto for soba are undoubtedly better than Matsugen.  But if you want a high-end Japanese experience in a beautiful space then this place is great.  Mind you I like the Aburiya space a lot, but it's going for something different: the neighborhood izakaya feel as opposed to the destination restaurant.

Wow, what neighborhood were you inhabiting in Tokyo? I was living in Akasaka and there wasn't a robatayaki/izakaya that nice. Maybe only in the toniest parts of shinjuku, ginza, etc. Aburiya being a high-end robatayaki/izakaya, yes.... but a closer approximation of your neighborhood izakaya is very much so Riki, donburiya or yokocho...

Any opinions of the Platt review? It was pretty negative...

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Much closer to my experience than any of the other reviews I've read...

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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  • 4 months later...

With the JGV Winter Promotion going on, $35 seemed a fair tariff to sample a few courses at Matsugen. Neither my dining companion nor myself wanted a big meal, so we decided to order one of the $35 prix fixe and a couple of the restaurant's better known dishes to share.

It's surely easy to spend a lot of money here. A couple plated apps, some sushi, maybe a shabu shabu set or a couple grilled items, and a carafe of sake and you've blown past the $100/person threshold. We, however, took advantage of the prix fixe and ordered the bakudan and house special cold soba. To drink a $4 pot of tea that was happily refilled with hot water but too small to hold more than about a mug and a half of tea per refilling. All in, we spent just shy of $50 each.

The food here represents contemporary Japanese cuisine quite well. The flavors are authentic and clean but not so austere as one might find in more traditional schools of Japanese cooking. You won't mistake the food here for Kyoto kaiseki cuisine, but neither is it in the fusion-y vein of Nobu and its spawn.

The prix fixe was solid, but I think we enjoyed the a la carte dishes more. Perhaps this was to be expected. Wasabi nuts and grilled edamame were fine, but more tea snacks than courses. Fluke tataki, completely fine, if a bit one note. The dressing overpowered the fish, but this happens often in tataki preparations. Chicken meatballs were strikingly simple but much better than I thought they would be. Fried to a crisp and quite dense, I'd eat a bowl of these with a couple beers and be happy. Black cod seemed a bit underseasoned but was nicely cooked. Thankfully, this was not as cloying as most versions out there. The bakudan a la carte app--the "stuff" in the bowl you mix and eat with nori--was very, very tasty, though I thought the portion was a little small. It's less an exercise in excess than one in delicate and very Japanese flavors and textures.

The star of the meal, and I was happy this was the case, were the two soba dishes. The hot duck soba was very good, very hearty. The house special soba was right near excellent, however. The variety of flavors and textures, all held together with the hearty, toothsome noodles was quite refreshing and unique. You don't really get this sensation in Western cooking.

We split the prix fixe dessert and headed out. It was a very nice, Zen-like experience, especially given how quiet the city was last night.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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