94 E. 7th St.
The restaurants in what could be called the East Village’s Little Tokyo typically stick to modest grub (ramen, yakitori, and other fun food sold in izakayas). Kyo Ya, however, offers a glimpse of kaiseki, the intricate Japanese meal originally served during a formal Japanese tea ceremony. Even if you don’t spring for the $120-plus tasting menu—which requires at least a day's notice—you can try plenty of the cuisine’s complex and occasionally esoteric dishes here a la carte. Delicate monkfish liver, often described as foie gras of the sea, lies in an umami-rich dashi-based sauce; sweet, faintly peppery grated daikon brightens the liver’s richness. An order of bozushi (a type of pressed sushi) presents rectangles of tangy rice, each topped by a sweet, buttery slice of marinated mackerel. The setting—an elegant union of handsome woods, soft lighting, and minimalist flora—echoes the meticulous arrangement of the food. Still, the neighborhood and the young crowd make Kyo Ya feel more easygoing than formal.