6 E. 32nd St.
Murray Hill/Kips Bay
Ichiumi, formerly called Todai, a worldwide behemoth of a Japanese buffet chain, is a fine example of how the pleasure of all-you-can-eat need not simply be its excess; dishes, though abundant, can be fresh, authentic, and made to order. Located at the edge of Murray Hill's small Koreatown, Ichiumi hosts hundreds of Asian businessmen, international tourists, and large families in its two-story dining room, with sky-high ceilings and a 160-foot buffet that stretches as far as the eye can see. With trays of sushi rolls, seaweed salads, soba noodles, and a hibachi grill all neatly displayed like small museum pieces, the effect resembles an amusement park of Japanese cuisine. Children holding huge plates gaze at silver dolphins projected on the walls; tourists stand in long lines; and corporate suits take their seats at the private upstairs dining room, enclosed in shoji screens. Occasionally dishes miss the mark, but most satisfy—watercress salad is crisp, grilled hibachi eel is sweet and smoky, and tonkatsu, deep-fried pork cutlet, is tender and homey. There's an exhaustive selection of imported sake brands to boot. For a friendly summary of Japanese cuisine, Ichiumi is worth a visit.