Photos By Nicholas Karlin, Words By Norm Quarrinton
Out of simplicity can come excellence, and the food at Umaya — 10th Street’s Japanese joint — is a case in point. The venue itself may be swanky (with posh-looking patrons propping up the amply-stocked bar), but when it comes to the food, much of the brilliance is down to high-class ingredients that haven’t been messed around with too much.
The menu at Umaya is comprehensive. It spans interesting salads, a delightful variety of appetizers, sushi, meat and vegetable skewers, donburi rice bowls, noodles like beef yakisoba, and five styles of ramen.
The chefs stand carefully turning splayed-out shrimp or cubes of glistening pork belly between bricks over blazing hot coals while guests watch. Umaya imported a special type of Japanese style charcoal that brings out the natural flavors of meat and vegetables.
Head Chef Nick Hoang sits behind the flames–managing each dish before it goes out to diners. Hoang is a highly skilled food service executive with more than 15 years of extensive experience, who excels in Japanese culinary expression and food design. Chef Hoang prides himself on masterful technique and new-age concepts in Asian cuisine. While his passion lies in sushi creation; his experience in hospitality goes well beyond sushi chef.
General Manager Christian Mallea curated the drink menu, which includes Japanese whiskey; cocktails with Japanese flavors like the rye-based “Smoked Ginger;” infused sake; and rare Japanese beer. Mallea was even able to find Japanese vodka—a shot of Kissui reveals a product that’s smoother than its Russian counterparts.
Most of this doesn’t come cheap, however. Umaya isn’t really the kind of the place where you can dine on a budget. But it wouldn’t be fair to call it overpriced, and it’s certainly one contemporary Japanese restaurant that we’re happy to come back to time and again for as long as we can afford to. Be sure to give the saké list a proper look too: there are more than 40 to choose from — and if you’re feeling brave, ask for a saké bomb.