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I eat Japanese food with little frequency. That’s why when someone in the know invites me out, I can’t resist. A friend, Nao, had an impromptu birthday dinner at Natori, an unassuming two-sided restaurant on Natori_birthdaySt. Marks that you might walk past without really noticing. There’s nothing flashy about it, very homey yet somehow naturally hip. But one of the chefs was friends with the birthday celebrant so we were treated to an omakase of sorts.

We, the ten eaters, put in a few requests from the menu, but much of it was a surprise. And the parade of dishes seemed never ending. By the time the chocolate cupcakes (inspired by a recipe from a drunken late-night viewing of America’s Test Kitchen after my birthday party) were presented, I was bursting at the seams.

avocado tuna semi-salad

burdock and hijiki/I was told a story about how American prisoners of war were fed gobo (burdock) and once freed complained about being made to eat bark and a Japanese soldier was executed specifically for this transgression. Burdock is tasty. I'd prefer to the sort of gruel I imagine in a P.O.W. camp.

mackerel sushi/There were people not so into mackerel. I guess it's oily and particularly fishy but that's what I like about it. I think of it as being Spanish, not so much Japanese.

alligator/It didn't taste like chicken in the least, kind of gamey and naturally spicy. Or maybe the light coating was spiced.

ginger squid/this was fairly sweet and I was pleased that the rings weren't breaded and fried. Even though I'm the one who picked this dish I feared it would be more like fried calamari.

enoki noodles

bean curd filled with rice

soft shell crab sushi/It seems like you could eat a whole plate easily, but two pieces were filling. I think it's the tempura effect.

takoyaki okonomiyaki/I'm not sure why I'm often repulsed by mayonnaise but rarely bothered by its presence in Japanese preperations. The cheese was jumping around from the heat and made the whole octopus pancake seem alive.

mixed sushi/there were more rolls than these but I didn't take photos of everything.

steamed sea bass/I'd just eaten Chinese steamed sea bass a few week prior. I wonder if removing the head is standard? The fish almost seemed naked without it.


I take pictures of food, but rarely my dining companions. Here’s a short video, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m only peripherally captured on it, but sadly my voice dominates the audio. Sometimes I forget how strongly my voice carries. Seriously, in grade school I was always the one made to go sit in the hall when I was part of a crew of disruptively gabby girls. Despite protesting, the teachers would tell me, “but you’re the one we hear.”

Natori * 58 St. Marks Pl., New York, NY

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  1. Have always been curious about Natori. Thanks for the review.

    One note: What you refer to as “Takoyaki” is actually “Okonomiyaki”, or, literally, “cook what you like.” It is a popular street food in Japan, supposedly reaching its’ nadir in Osaka, and is often sold in close proximity to Takoyaki, which are fried octopus balls. If all is going according to plan, no two Okonomiyakis should be exactly alike; the “cook what you like” moniker lives up to the spirit of this amazing street food.

    September 3, 2007
  2. nao #

    Ahhhh sawrey…. I should have sent you the info earlier. Yup that is Okonomiyaki. And this Natori version is a bit different from ordinary one. Seems like less flour… not sure which region’s.

    …And Enoki thing is Enoki mushroom called “Enokidake” (Enokitake) and stuffed bean curd thing is another version of sushi called “Inarizusi” (Inari-zushi). I don’t know if I told you this but “Sushi” is the name for vinegared rice dish and not necessary for row fish meal. The one became worldly famous, and everyone called “Sushi” these days (even in Japan) is “Edomae-zushi” which is evolved in early 1800 in Edo. (former name of Tokyo)

    September 6, 2007
  3. aflinn #

    that’s not cheese 🙂
    it’s bonito – dried fish flakes

    November 21, 2008
  4. aflinn #

    that’s not cheese 🙂
    it’s bonito – dried fish flakes

    November 21, 2008
  5. aflinn: you are correct, bonito not cheese. I know cheese didn’t sound right for Japanese food, but you never know since they seem to be crazy about mayo. There could be anything on that okonomiyaki.

    November 21, 2008

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