New York is a city of immigrants who have historically made do with inexpensive cuts of meat that rarely saw the candlelight of upscale restaurants. But even if you didn't grow up with tongue, liver or kidneys on your dinner plate, you're seeing it now, with the nose-to-tail trend in dining. Still, we're willing to bet that few of our grandmothers served us tendon, aorta, large intestine or (cover Nonna's ears) testicles.
Korean-Japanese chef Takashi Inoue came to New York intent on opening a restaurant that specialized in yakiniku, a Japanese technique of grilling bite-sized cuts of meat developed out of necessity after World War II, when food was scarce and people were forced to get creative with offal (called "horomun" in Japanese). Two and a half years ago, he opened the doors of his eponymous restaurant, the first of its kind in New York.
Takashi's mostly beef menu, he tells us, blends the simplicity of Japanese cuisine with the wildness of Korean -- reflecting Takashi's own mixed heritage. In fact, Inoue's grandmother served yakiniku at her own restaurant in Japan. His sweet-hot barbecue sauce is a riff on her original recipe. "This is my soul food. I grew up with this food," he tells us. "And I want people to enjoy offal cuts in a really fine way."
It took Inoue about a year to source all of his beef ingredients, which come from sustainably raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free cattle. Now thriving, Takashi is a favorite of the Bourdains. The couple dined there before it was featured in the New York episode of "The Layover" (of wife Ottavia, Takashi says, "She's hard core.")
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The horomun arrives raw, either to be eaten that way or grilled yourself at the table. Note to parents: Kids love this. Each cut has a different cooking time, which your server will explain. You'll soon develop a rhythm and a sense of what each piece looks like when it's ready to eat. Strive for medium-rare: A char on the outside is good, but overcooked sweetbreads is not.
So how does it taste? Very chewy, in the case of the stomach and intestine. But the gnawing releases a rich, subtle flavor. The sweetbreads are velvety, and the heart and liver have a deep, mineral taste.
One of the most popular menu items strays from tradition. The testicargot are "cow balls" (as the menu plainly states) prepared escargot-style, cloaked in shiso garlic butter.
"I have a lot of new dishes that I created in New York, because I had so much influence from this city," Takashi says. "I keep adding, and I don't want to cut anything -- the menu's getting so big!"
If you go
456 Hudson St.