TravelNoise: Ikinari Steak, New York City
When you think of a steakhouse, do large booths, heavy dinner rolls and a big juicy ribeyes spring to mind? Well, keep the ribeye and scrap the rest, because East Village’s Ikinari Steak will reinvent, and heighten, your standards.
Tucked between 3rd and 4th Ave. and just a few steps down, the large glass windows of the restaurant meet and greet you. If you read any recent reviews, you’ll know that there’s typically a line out the door and a decent wait, but my guest and I showed up at 5.30pm on a Wednesday ready to party, and only a few people were there when we arrived.
You’ll also know, if you read reviews that is, that Ikinari isn’t just making headlines with its perfectly-grilled and reasonably-priced steak — it is the first steakhouse of its kind in New York City, and probably anywhere else, that it is designed for tenants to stand while they eat. I thought, interesting, and walked in totally open-minded.
We were greeted by our host and shown to a high-top table in the centre of the room surrounded by a few other high-tops and a few seated tables way in the back (for those who can’t hang). In front of us were the signature “hot” steak sauce and their special Ikinari sauce as well as salad dressings. The laminated menu looked simple and focused — for sides, you could choose between a garlic pepper rice and plain rice, soup, salad and radish salad. Drinks were limited to water, sodas and some nice beer and wine selections as well as sake.
Our waitress arrived at our table and walked us through the interactive experience that the chain restaurant has created across all its establishments. First, you choose your sides and drinks. Then, you walk up to a counter toward the back and choose from three steaks (ribeye, sirloin and filet mignon) and how much you’d like, in ounces. The chefs slice and weigh your steak, ask how you’d like it done and send you back to your table where your sides and drinks are likely already waiting.
For sides, we went with the recommended garlic pepper rice ($6) and house soup ($2) and for drinks I chose the Cabernet ($8) while my guest went with the Sapporo draft ($8). We learned very quickly that nearly everything came literally sizzling on piping hot plates (I learned by touching one of them, so yeah, great). The garlic pepper rice was nicely seasoned and topped with diced steak bits and corn while the soup, a clear broth with vegetables served in a small mug, was a nice mild starter to the heavy meal. I personally liked drizzling just a little of the Ikinari steak sauce on the rice — think fried rice with that slightly sweet hibachi sauce. It was good.
Walking up to the counter was an exceptionally cool experience. Fresh steaks were constantly taken out of the refrigerator behind the chefs and sliced to your exact specifications. My guest and I decided to get about 10 ounces of each steak (yessss) cooked medium rare. We walked back to our table and had just barely started on our sides when we heard the crackling hot plates coming toward us again with the three steaks not even 30 seconds off the grill.
So, let’s break it down for a second. The filet was actual butter. A little more rare than medium rare, you barely had to lay a knife to it as it melted in your mouth. The sirloin was also extremely good — sirloins are reliable, and we thought it tasted best without any sauce. But the true hero was the popular ribeye. Just fatty enough and tender as hell, this steak blew us away.
My guest and I were so full at the point, we were just ready to surrender our bodies and souls to these steaks. By the end of the meal I actually remembered we were standing. Isn’t that strange? I’m actually glad that we were, mostly because of how much we had both eaten.
The steaks really are special and rank in my top five best in the city, no lie. A little word of advice: don’t let the standing rule sway you. With a steak like Ikinari’s, you’ll forget everything but what’s in front of you.
Address: 90 E. 10th St. New York, NY 10003
Telephone Number: 917-388-3546