Where: 90 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003
Crowd: Millennial meat-lovers
Vibe: Casual, fuss-free steakhouse
Standout dish: Ribeye

7:15pm:

I turn the corner onto East 10th Street, walking by one recent East Asian import — Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred dim sum house Tim Ho Wan — on my way to another recently-opened import, Japan’s chairless steak restaurant Ikinari. As I approach, I expect to see a long line, but my dinner guest and I squeeze into the basement-level spot just before a queue starts to form.

7:18pm:

We’re “seated” at a station near the door. There’s a bit of a shuffle to figure out where to put our things — hooks have been placed at the front of our table, but they’re too low to accommodate my long winter parka. Luckily, I spy a foldable bag basket nearby and commandeer it.

7:20pm:

Our server Marcus pops by and explains how the concept works: order sides and drinks with him first, then head to the cutting station for steak. It’s a concise menu and my friend is here solely for meat, so I go ahead and order a small of both salad options. We huddle over the menu and come up with a game plan on the steaks — I’ll go for the ribeye and he’ll do the filet.

The steaks are priced per gram (don’t worry, they have ounce conversions for the Americans among us), with different minimums for the three cuts: $27/300g for the ribeye, $16/200g for the sirloin and $22/200g for the filet. There’s also a limited-time special that allows diners to try all three.

7:20pm:

We walk over to the steak station in the rear, which gives me a chance to check out the rest of the restaurant. Unlike a typical steakhouse, Ikinari is bright and buzzy, with exposed brick walls, dark wooden tables and signs plastered everywhere stating “We Recommend Rare.” The staff are dressed in chef's whites and the servers are pretty hands-off after they take your initial orders, but still vigilant enough to notice when we need water refills.

The meat line is short and the butcher deftly weighs, cuts and trims each dish. We both ask for 300 grams and he comes pretty close: 323 for my filet and 334 for the ribeye. They’re passed over to the grill, where slabs are hissing and smoking as they cook.

7:27pm:

Once we get back to our table, we see that our greens have arrived. At first glance, they look lackluster, but the balsamic and sweet onion dressings — two of close to a dozen different condiments available — give them a boost in the flavor department. The mixed salad resembles the stuff we get with Japanese or Thai takeout, so I’d skip it, but the radish one is surprisingly refreshing and unique. “Radish” is actually daikon cut into thin strips and piled atop raw lettuce with crispy shredded seaweed.

7:39pm:

It’s time for meat. The steaks arrive on top of sizzling cast-iron skillets with sweet corn and onions. Now comes the moment of truth — do we put on the plastic bibs? We look at each other knowingly, both thinking there’s no way New Yorkers would eat steaks in a bib… would they? But a quick glance around the room proves us wrong and we join the crowd. Once we start pouring Ikinari’s signature steak sauce out of the insulated carafes, we become pretty appreciative of the splash guards.

We carve into our respective chops and the bright pink color looks promising. The wet-aged black angus beef is surprisingly tender and juicy with just the right amount of chew. We also ordered the garlic pepper rice as a side, which comes on a hot plate as well. Chunks of beef rim the fragrant pile of carbs and cook as we mix everything up. True to its name, it’s heavy on the garlic and pepper flavor.

8:01pm:

Dinner’s done in less than an hour, nearly impossible at a sit-down equivalent. The price tag is completely reasonable too, adding up to around $80 with no tipping necessary. Is it the equivalent of a 90-day dry-aged chop? No, not exactly. But is it a pretty damn good steak? It absolutely is. And at the end of our 45-minute meal, neither of us noticed — or cared — that we had been standing the entire time.

 Disclaimer: VIVA was a guest of Ikinari, however opinions and comments made by the writer remain unbiased and independent.

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