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Restaurants & Bars 36

Iki Restaurant - Flushing

Pookipichu | Jun 9, 2015 07:59 AM

Iki is a new Japanese restaurant in Flushing, located in the still-under-construction plaza across the street from Spicy Tasty, fairly close to the subway station.

The restaurant is modern in design, clean lines, wood, and the ambiance is top tier for Flushing (barring a child of the management that was yelling and running around before his mother shushed him).

They have an omakase (I think my waiter said it was 17-20 courses for $100) but I opted for the a la carte menu.

They give you a tray of complimentary edamame and I like that they are not sprinkled with salt (although they are salted, probably in the cooking water). I'm not a fan of very salty edamame. Matcha tea is also complimentary.

I started with miso soup with nameko mushrooms, miso had a clean flavor, better than the burnt caramel tasting miso soup I had at Sushi Samba the week before. Fairly good rendition of a restaurant standard, not overly salty with the fresh, tasty jelly-like mushroom nubbins.

Next was hokkaido uni over housemade tofu with freshly grated wasabi root and yuzu. The uni was fresh, delicately sweet and complemented by the subtle flavor of fresh tofu. Wasabi added a rounded brightness with the yuzu ponzu adding acidity. There were little crunches of sea salt to complete the dish.

I ordered sashimi and sushi, one akami sashimi and one king sake sushi. The akami was buttery, fresh, smelled fresh. King sake was room temperature, lovely fine texture to the fish, smooth and firm. The sushi and sashimi come with fresh grated wasabi, which is always a treat, I could eat it by the spoonful. The pickled ginger was mild, natural tasting and lacked the day-glo colors of most Queens Japanese restaurants and the radish was crisp and fresh.

Next was A5 miyazaki wagyu grilled with seaweed dusted over it. Presentation is lovely in a stone plate, but the plate was lukewarm, as was the meat. The wagyu was sliced a bit thinly for my taste and some pieces were better than others, knife work could be a bit more precise. That being said, I haven't seen A5 wagyu in Flushing and the quality of the meat was as good as top Japanese restaurants in Manhattan that were more expensive, that I've had similar preparation. The meat could use a better sear and while the seaweed dusting is extremely flavorful/delicious, I wish it was offered as a dip on the side to give the option of adjusting to your taste vs. covering the beef.

I ordered soft-shell crab tempura, very fresh, succulent crab, clean-tasting. Batter was light, crisp, very deft hand in the frying. This was a truly great rendition of soft-shell crab, prepared with better technique than soft-shell crab I had at Aquagrill, LIC Market, Babbo, Pies n Thighs, this season. Crisp, light, and almost grease-less, very straight forward but with excellent execution. Comes with a housemade yuzu ponzu sauce. The ponzu sauce had a little too much yuzu and was a bit too assertively acidic. I found that scooping some of the scallion from the sauce was enough to flavor the soft-shell crab vs. dunking the crab. At $12, the soft-shell crab was the best value.

Lastly I had a bowl of their truffle ice cream, which is housemade. I asked them if they use truffle oil and they said they use real truffles and chop them up. I have a lingering suspicion that there is some truffle oil to augment whatever real truffles they use but I can't confirm without watching them make it. The ice cream was slightly icy in texture.

Easily the best Japanese restaurant in Flushing (not a high bar), but also from my experience the best non-ramen Japanese restaurant in all of Queens (ambiance, quality of ingredients, cooking). I don't think there is any other Japanese restaurant in Queens striving to be on their level. Iki is clearly trying to establish itself as an alternative to higher tier Japanese restaurants in Manhattan. Their soft-shell crab was prepared/fried better than the ones I've had at Yasuda, more generous in portion and much less expensive. Other than Mu Ramen, I don't know of another Queens restaurant offering A5 wagyu.

Total bill came to $83 before tip, making it the most upscale priced restaurant in Flushing (barring Chinese exotic seafood banquets, e.g. alaskan king crab, shark fin, abalone). It's not exemplary enough to be a destination restaurant for those in Manhattan, but it is a destination for people in Queens or Long Island. I've been to Kotobuki several times and never cared for it, but it's the highest "rated" Japanese restaurant in LI, and Iki makes Kotobuki seem like a Panda Express.

Iki is clearly committed to quality, in a way I find admirable. Their focus on freshness, ingredients and housemade sauces, a) real wasabi b) real wasabi that's not from a jar/tube, making their own artisanal tofu... they're not trying to compete with the cheap eats section of Flushing, which both makes me scared for them and root for them (we need some higher end options in Queens already!)

Service was very good, not typical for Flushing, hot matcha (ever so slightly watery, but not bitter at least) was filled like clock-work, the pacing of the dishes was also good.

Iki was empty when I ate there so I'm not sure what the Flushing market will bear. I'm hoping that their business picks up because after the closing of Mr. Nilsson, I'm beginning to despair for Queens and real upscale food vs. Trattoria L'incontro and faux nice places that serve just-above average food, paling next to what's offered in Manhattan, and in decor that's kitschy LI pastiche of ugly tiles and bad murals.

Iki,
Aquagrill,
LIC Market,
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca,
Sushi Yasuda,
Mu Ramen,
Trattoria L'incontro,
Kotobuki
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