Mon-Sat, noon-2:30pm and 5:30pm-10:30pm; Sun, 5:30pm-10:30pm
Nearby Subway Stops
6 at 51st St.; E, M at Lexington Ave.-53rd St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
The East Forties are dotted with clubby little Japanese sushiyas like this one, seemingly transplanted from the Land of the Rising Sun. Restaurant SEO’s long, blond-wood sushi bar hosts Japanese “salarimen” sporting crisp white shirts and deep, swaggering voices. The 26-seat dining room exudes Nipponese rustic elegance, with a Zen rock garden on view and grass-flecked rough gray walls that resemble handmade rice paper. Parties of Japanese execs, male and female, chatter alongside perhaps one table of New York suits. Expense accounts ratchet skyward with steadily arriving ceramic flasks of sake and prettily composed side dishes. Glisteningly fresh, artfully cut sushi is up to the native clientele’s standards; although the sashimi assortment is meager, the sushi platter will sate American appetites. Patrons not dining on the company’s yen would do well to order a fragrant bowl of the house specialty, Inaniwa udon made with noodles from an artisanal noodlemaker in rural Akita. The udon swim in warm broth robustly flavored with an alchemy of ingredients that includes smoky bonito flakes and sweet mirin rice wine. It’s a memorable soup that—given the right dining companion—may strike some patrons as liquid bliss.
SEO’s specialty Inaniwa udon noodles have been handmade since the 1600s in the northern Japanese prefecture of Akita, home of the famed guard dogs. Crunchy outside and tender within, the noodles can be enjoyed hot or cold but are spotlighted in the restaurant’s stellar “warm broth.”
Inaniwa udon noodles with warm broth, $12; sushi assortment, $25