I was walking down East 18th St last night and saw a cute, new Japanese resturant called Butai had recently opened. Since I live in the neighborhood and try to support new restaurants because all the existing ones in that area are either packed or 2nd rate, I figured I'd give it a try with my wife. We sat upstairs, in a nicely decorated, but somewhat bland space. Nothing could prepare us for the debacle to follow- food took forever to arrive and when it did it was mediocre to bad, and the order was wrong.
A miso-marinated grilled fish appetizer was tough and inedible and the California rolls had a day-old quality to them. On top of that, the service was all over the place, with at least 3 different waiters trying to accommodate us but none getting anything done. Really an awful experience that was embarassing from their constant apologizing and depressing in that you're still hungry at the end but you don't feel like eating anymore, even when you're being comped.
Apparently they've only been open 2 weeks, but they should have waited longer to get it together. I don't usually like to wait until a good review before I check out a place, but I should have passed. Bad Japanese isn't just underwhelming, it can be dangerous. Be warned.
PS: a note to aspiring chefs and restaurateurs- There's still a lot of room for some good new restaurants in the East teens. The popular places on Irving are impossible to just walk into and there are a slew of underwhelming Italian restaurants on 3rd Ave. Help us out!
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