Best new Japanese restaurant: Matsugen

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OTHER NOMINEES: Ippudo NY, Kyo Ya, Sushi Azabu

There was no shortage of stellar Japanese newcomers this year, but the one that beat the rest is none other than French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's modern soba palace. The buckwheat noodles, made daily from grain ground under the expert supervision of brothers Masa, Taka and Yoshi Matsushita, are the headliners, though the menu offers much more. Delicate pieces of sushi, silken homemade tofu and light-as-air tempura vie for your appetite. Luckily, you don't need to play favorites: With the $35 prix-fixe dinner menu delivering multiple small plates, you can afford to spread the love. Matsugen 241 Church St between Leonard and Worth Sts (212-925-0202)

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