restaurants
Japonais
111 East 18th Street
212 260 2020

Whether it's the location that sets it apart from the other big Asian restaurants, which have become de rigeur in Manhattan of late, or the lack of pretention, Japonais has become the one with the staying power. With a long lasting presence in Chicago at Rick Wahlstedt and Miae Lim's first location, the attention to detail and food here sets it apart from the theme-park feeling of its competitors. Red patent leather chairs and glass blown by Jeffrey Beers (the third powerhouse to join the team), surround the 291 seats, which were filled almost instantly by foodies, fashionettes, fund manager types and everyone else who was in town at that moment. It hasn't hurt the elegant spot that hard partying types such as Tinsley Mortimer, Panic at the Disco and Pete Wentz (from Fall Out Boy) also chose this spot for New Year's Eve. We like the Bin Cho, a seared baby tuna sashimi with arugula and daikon; filet mignon with white miso truffled potato puree; and the crispy shrimp and salmon roll in wasabi tobiko sauce. White miso soup is delicate and flavourful, a hydroponic bibb lettuce salad is simple and fresh, but the absolute best thing on the menu (which is so good, it eclipses the stupendously fresh fish) is the Thai basil ice cream. We'd jump in a car service or jet to get to a scoop of that every time. p.s. another reason to like Japonais is they don't make it hard for you to become a fan - the upstairs lounge seats 60 and the downstairs 40; they actually want you to stop in for any reason at all. Not that you will need any excuse.

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