85 Ave. A
Don't mistake their basement neighbor's velvet club-ropes as belonging to street-level Takahachi. Sure, on weekends, there can be a line out this veteran Japanese restaurant's door, but the warmly lit East Village oasis holds no pretensions. Light-colored wood and low, rice-paper partitions envelop a diverse, jeans-wearing (all kinds of jeans, not just the $200 kind paired with pointy shoes), largely under-40 crowd whose sometimes loud conversation—underscored by a somehow Zen-sounding techno beat—creates a pleasant buzz. Equally warm while professional is the noir-clad waitstaff, happy to explain the difference between sushi and sashimi for the thousandth time, then ceremoniously presenting orders as if announcing royalty. And with good reason: the open kitchen delivers commendably fresh (and affordable) sushi. Generously apportioned slabs of ruby-red tuna and tender eel are delicious as is the lightly sweet goma ae (steamed spinach) spiked with crushed black and white sesame seeds. Opt for maki rolls with idiosyncratic names over the classics—daily specials often include jalapeño or a splash of Tabasco, which meld exquisitely with avocado, eel and mayonnaise. When not in rolls, look past fried items; they tend to be chewy and oil-soaked. The real stars at Takahachi are the kushiyaki, skewers of meat and vegetables (okra with thick-cut bacon!), grilled to crispy, unpretentious perfection.