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It seems like almost every culture has its’ own version of Chinese food. Wafu Chuka 味風中華 is Japan’s version of Chinese food and to my knowledge Saburi is New York’s only Wafu Chuka restaurant. While I’m generally not much of a fan of fusion food and I don’t really like American-Chinese food, for some reason I do like certain Japanese-Chinese, Korean-Chinese and Indian-Chinese food, so I was glad to find this place. I’ve actually been going here quite a bit because it’s close to my girlfriend’s apartment. At this point, I’ve probably tried around 60-70% for the menu, but this post is going to be about some of their better dishes.
The head chef and owner’s name is Jun Cui. He trained under Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in Japan and I believe he is ethnically Chinese. I haven’t met him, but some of the chefs are definitely ethnic Chinese who lived in Japan as I’ve heard them come out and speak to people in unaccented Mandarin and then turn around and talk to their staff in unaccented Japanese (quite impressive).
The restaurant is clean and has decent ambiance, but nothing to write home about. It has off-white walls with pictures of shadow puppets on the walls as the chef is a practitioner of this dying art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_play) and if you look around you’ll find a picture of Jun Cui and Chen Kenichi on the wall when they were both much younger. They also have a bar with various sakes, Chinese liquors and some very strong liquor that they infuse with various interesting things (herbs, berries and even snake).
On to the food:
- Kaori Chicken: This is probably my overall favorite dish here. The dish consists of sliced fried chicken over a bed of a salad with a light ponzu-type of sauce that has a lot of minced daikon in it. The chicken is beautifully fried, crispy on the outside, not oily or heavy at all. The sauce and salad complement it perfectly. This is definitely a must get dish here. 8/10
- “Peedan” Tofu: This is always on their special menu. It consists of diced pidan (Chinese preserved egg) over a very soft creamy tofu with a salty sesame oil sauce. I like this dish quite a bit as well. The pidan’s creamy flavor with the tofu and the saltiness of the sesame oil sauce complement each other really well. Another dish I definitely recommend getting here. 7.75/10
- Ban Ban Chicken: This is a cold sliced chicken dish in a thick sesame sauce. The chicken is surprisingly still quite tender and the sesame sauce is thick and flavorful. If you like thicker sesame sauces then you will like this dish. I think it’s pretty good although my GF is less of a fan of it. 6.75/10
- Gomoku Chahan: Chahan is fried rice and when done correctly, I think Japanese fried rice rivals any good Chinese fried rice. The wok flavor in Japanese fried rice is exceptional. Here they serve it with roasted pork and various diced vegetables with some pickled ginger on top. While it’s not the best version I’ve had, it’s certainly quite tasty and much better than most versions you get in NY. I highly recommend asking for some chili oil as I find that kicks it up a notch. 7.5/10
- Kani Tama: This is an egg omelet with crabmeat, mushrooms and some other vegetables in a light brown oyster sauce. It’s a light dish that goes really well with the fried rice as the flavors are quite subtle. You can taste the oyster sauce flavor but it is very light. 7.25/10
Overall, I like Saburi and there are some good dishes to be had here. However, you have to be careful as some of their dishes are not very good in particular I’d avoid their ramen. That said it’s definitely worth trying if you’re in the neighborhood or looking to try something new.
168 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016
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