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Known to many as the most diverse neighborhood in New York City, Astoria is home to plenty top notch restaurants. Hidden between two unassuming buildings, Gaijin sits comfortably as if without any competition within a five-mile radius. Gaijin, meaning “outside person” in Japanese, is run by a friendly staff with the main directive in giving their diners an experience rather than settling like other restaurants who often become underwhelming stop-and-go sushi spots. The name Gaijin symbolizes Chef Mark Garcia’s modern take on traditional Japanese dishes. Chef Mark has worked on creating a diverse and innovative menu that can appeal to both pescetarianism and veganism. Menu aside, Gaijin offers a retro-modern Japanese locale that takes you to neo-Tokyo and beyond. White walls are adorned with soft lights while small square tables offer first-date intimacy. The main focal point is the sushi bar that sits right at the entrance. Eight stools adorn a glass wall with a marble table that separates the sushi chef and yourself. Across the wall, wooden boxes hold colorful indistinguishable sushi. Each sushi chef wears typical white aprons and holds an attentive stare.
Let’s get to the sushi part because we know this what you came here for. What sets Gaijin apart is its omakase. Known to many as a revolving door of what the current chef has on hand, omakase means “I’ll leave it up to you”. The chef has total control of your flavor experience for the night. Gaijin has three omakase options: starter ($100) which entails nine pieces, full ($130) which contains 12 pieces and premier ($160) which carries 15 pieces. All omakase are served with a soup, appetizer, hand roll and dessert. If you’re in the mood for unagi, tuna or uni you need to check this out. Before you start munching down on raw fish, a waiter prepares soup while recanting the history of omakase and makes recommendations on sake. Each soup is prepared in small cantors containing potatoes and other delicious ingredients.
Omakase is traditionally paired with a supplement in the form of sake. Gaijin offers a sake ($50) and a wine pairing ($50). The sake pairing comes with junmai, gingo, daiginjo and umeshu. Each sake is meant to be drunk while on the omakase voyage. The wine options come with seasonal selections of white and red. Each omakase dish brings a new flavor, fish and experience. You’ll try sea urchin, firefish and other delectable dishes you never thought would be consumable. At the end of your omakase voyage, you’ll be treated with black sesame ice cream. Rolled into traditional balls, this ice cream soothes your aching full belly. What Chef Mark and Gaijin offer is an unforgettable experience in a city that is often embittered with consumable overexposure.
BY TIME OUT COMMUNITY REVIEWER: EMY RODRIGUEZ
37-12 31st Ave
|Cross street:||between 37th and 38th Sts|
|Transport:||E, M, R to Steinway St or N, W to Broadway|
|Price:||Average: $60 per person|
|Opening hours:||Mon–Thurs 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm; Sun closed|
|Do you own this business?|