Kanoyama—formerly Koi, and originally Iso—has lost the great majority of its charm and hipness (when it was Iso, the pretty young men waiters wore T-shirts with Keith Haring designs). It was the place where I learned to jam a whole piece of uni with a quail egg in my mouth, how to build a rapport with the sushi chefs (a couple of whom remain today), and discovered jack fish. The quality of the fish is still high, and the commitment to lesser-known sea creatures remains, but the attention to detail has slipped a bit since Iso himself put down his knife for good several years ago.
Good things still happen on the corner of 11th and Second though. The restaurant is currently running a special of toro ribs. The other night, a distinguished Japanese man in a slim silver suit (matching his hair) sat at the bar, using a spoon to scrape the flesh from a slab of the ribs, so, despite the $25 price tag (the special is listed as an appetizer, though it’s generous), we copied him. “I’ll have what the chairman’s having,” I said.
The raw ribs come with a bit of fresh grated wasabi and bonito-infused soy sauce. There is soft, flavorful meat on both sides, and when you’re done, the bones are collected, grilled, and returned, this time with ponzu sauce, a lemon wedge, and a pleasant charred fishy flavor.
Call to make sure it’s on the menu. “It’s hard to get,” the manager told me.
175 Second Ave