Given the macho atmosphere of most izakayas, with their clientele of hard-drinking salarymen and meat-centric menus, it might come as a surprise to learn that the chef of three of the city’s best — Yakitori Totto, Torys, and the brand-new Soba Totto — are all under the control of a woman. Mika Ohie is a first-class cook and kitchen manager who runs all three restaurants with an iron hand, says her boss, owner Ryuichi “Bobby” Munekata. “I hardly go in the kitchen at Yakitori Totto,” he says. “I leave it all up to her.” But Ohie admits kitchens are not the friendliest places. “Kitchens are very tough. You need to accept the challenge of running one,” she tells us. “I love to cook, but restaurant work is definitely tough.”
New York soba fans (more than you might think) will be pleased to hear that the city is getting a much-needed addition to its roster of buckwheat-noodle restaurants. The source is impeccable: Ryuichi “Bobby” Munekata, the owner of the Cheap Eats favorite Yakitori Totto and Aburiya Kinnosuke. “There are only three or four soba restaurants in New York, compared to hundreds of sushi places,” says Munekata. The planned location for Totto Yakitori and Soba, though, is directly atop one of its few competitors: Sakagura, which occupies the basement floor of the same East 43rd Street building. You’ll find Totto Yakitori on the ground floor, likely as of mid-December.