New Kid on the Block: Tsubame

A new Japanese omakase restaurant has been added to the neighborhood’s list (see below). Tsubame is the work of chef Jay Zheng, who also owns Kōyō in Astoria, where he does the menu development there offering both omakase and kaiseki (multi-course dinner) menus. (Tsubame is the Japanese word for barn swallow.)

Zheng, 38, was born in rural China and immigrated at age 10 to the Midwest, where he grew up working in his family’s restaurant, learning kitchen basics by age 12. He was trained in fine dining as a young man at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago and by age 27, opened his first Japanese fusion restaurant in Indiana in 2012.

He moved to the city in 2016 and opened Gaijin in Astoria, closing it in summer 2019 and relaunching it as the more upscale Kōyō with executive chef Darry Liu. Since the pandemic, Zheng took over as executive chef there.

The chef calls the menu “kaiseki-inspired” since it is not the traditional multi-course progression, but more of a tasting menu. Current dishes include uni and toro tartare over seasoned short grain rice; hassun — a collection of small seafood bites served on miniature dining pedestals; octopus tentacle slow braised for four hours served with daikon and wasabi; Ossetra caviar atop a crispy scalloped potato and garnished with sansho pepper; a toro tart with burdock root and torched pickled onion in a rice paper wafer.

The space is spare and lovely, but like so many other smaller Japanese restaurants in the neighborhood, there is no natural light. (As someone who always likes to sit in the window, I always find this a bit suffocating.) The space is more of a jewel box in maple, and seats a total of 10.

Tsubame does not have a website, but offers reservations on Tock, where the prix-fixe price is $225 per person plus the $8 fee for Tock.

Count this as the best priced among the other omakase menus in the neighborhood: Sushi Azabu‘s The Den, on Greenwich and Laight; Ito on Barclay; Icca on Warren; Shion 69 Leonard; Sushi of Gari on West Broadway and the most recent, Sushi Ichimura on Greenwich and Hubert.

11 Park Place
Tuesday to Saturday, 5:30 to 10:30p
Closed Sunday and Monday