New York City's collection of izakaya—a type of informal, Japanese drinking establishment—grew this month when the first NYC outpost of London's Zuma opened on Madison Avenue in the upper 30s. Where, say, Williamsburg's Cherry Izakaya is all warm wood and casual dining, Zuma offers a flashier, Midtown-appropriate vibe; think leather, iron, granite and steel. The restaurant is the brainchild of Rainer Becker, a German-born chef whose love of Japanese cuisine and culture led to the creation of the Zuma empire, which boasts nine restaurants in Hong Kong, Dubai, Istanbul and beyond.
The enormous NYC outpost offers seating for 150, including a lounge area with room for 50 and a sushi bar with space for eight patrons. From there, head sushi chef Kazutoshi Endo crafts maki rolls like freshwater eel ($14) with avocado, shiso and yamagobo and special sushi like the Zuma Uni ($17), with uni, barley miso and garlic chips. There's also space to watch the robata action, where chefs expertly grill skewers of chicken wings ($7.50) with sake, sea salt and lime; kurobuta pork belly ($15) with yuzu mustard miso; and jumbo tiger prawn ($36) with ponzu lime butter.
The dishes are meant to be shared, even the main, signature items like Rice Hot Pot ($19) with wild mushrooms and Japanese vegetables and the Rib Eye Steak ($36) with wafu sauce and garlic chips. There's also a table-wide omakase option—starting with a classic ($58 per person) all the way up to premium ($158 per person)—plus low-key snacks like edamame ($7) and fried calamari ($11) with green chili and lime for a few bites over a glass or two of sake.
261 Madison Avenue, 212-544-9862; website