Ate at Chiyono for the second time. Now that we've mastered the art of ordering there (the first time we left hungry b/c we stupidly assumed our entrees came w/rice, soup and pickles), we're convinced that it's quite possibly the most satisfying homestyle Japanese food in the city. Why isn't this place constantly packed? It's incredibly tasty, unique, and quite good value.
We've both spent ample time in Japan. The food at Chiyono strikes a delicate balance between heartiness (a side of the cuisine that NYC's more upscale places often ignore) and delicacy (I swear to God, Chiyono's ama-ebi soup brings back memories of some of the kaiseki I've eaten).
Chiyono herself is both a gracious and bubbly hostess and a real force to be reckoned w/as a cook. The mixture of refinement and heft, as well as the intermingling of traditional and contemporary Japanese cooking techniques really puts her in a class by herself.
If anything, the food reasembles what you might eat while staying at a good (but not too fussy) rural ryokan or in a Japanese home overseen by a hip and culinarily savvy homemaker.
We ate: two orders of ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) soup; Japanese-style "risotto" with perfect, tiny oysters and mushrooms (it was really a rice and fluffy egg soup in dashi broth--so warming on a snowy night); rich and filling stewed, fatty pork belly; delicately marinated yellowtail with sweet Japanese turnips; greaseless fresh sardine tempura rolled with shiso leaf and umeboshi (salty pickled plum) from Chiyono's mother's garden.
Total bill for stuffing ourselves w/tax and a VERY generous tip, around $50. Along with the ramen at Minca and the budget-priced takeout bento at Win 49, this is our favorite downtown Japanese food. If you order wisely, it's only minimally more expensive than say, a big meal at nearby Sapporo East and it's infinitely tastier.