4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, W at 14th St.-Union Sq.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
South St. to 242nd St., FDR Dr. to West Side Hwy.
This venue is closed.
The pseudo-Japanese big-box formula, which Nobu pioneered so inventively over a decade ago and which so many places now slavishly imitate, has become, arguably, the signature restaurant style of our era. At Japonais, all of the time-tested gimmicks are on display. There is the theatrical interior (ceiling rafters carved in the gentle shape of a wave, a Dr. Seuss–like topiary stuck with balls of moss, bathrooms flecked with gold) designed by one of the co-owners, Jeffrey Beers. There is the gimmick-laden menu (myriad categories and subcategories, French headings), the crowded bars, and the dimly lit cocktail nooks (one upstairs, one down), where people sit on sultry, low-slung couches, sipping their highly sugared drinks, tapping their toes to the unrelenting nightclub beat.
Despite the menu headings and the vaguely Continental name, there’s nothing very French about the food at Japonais. The main courses tend to be standard Western entrées dressed with a variety of random Asian flavors. One of my guests, a stolid steak eater from upstate, enjoyed his filet mignon but questioned the presence of white miso in his potato purée. If you can handle the cost, the Wagyu rib eye is the best beef dish on the menu (it’s rich but not too fatty), and the rack of lamb is okay, provided you like your lamb touched with sour plum sauce. I ordered the tuna steak but have no memory of it, which may not be a bad thing, since the hamachi I sampled on another evening was overcooked and mired in a bizarre mushroom broth, filled with fishy dumpling balls made with mashed scallops and shrimp. For poultry eaters, there’s a massive, very un-Japanese portion of roasted chicken, flavored, not unpleasantly, with chestnuts, and a Peking-duck knockoff called Le Quack Japonais, which might have been decent if the pancakes hadn’t been chalky and the duck seized in industrial amounts of hoisin glaze.Delivery
To place delivery orders, call 212-643-1222.Ideal Meal
Spicy Mono and Tuna Tuna Salmon rolls, Wagyu-beef carpaccio, sushi and sashimi, apple toban yaki.