Bessou New York | A Love Letter To Life
Bessou is a charming Japanese restaurant in Noho, a tiny neighborhood in Manhattan where arts, creativity and chic blend together. The word ‘bessou’ in Japanese – means ‘home away from home’ – and for owner Maiko Kyogoku, it is just that. Even though she grew up in New York City, her parents – both Japanese immigrants – made sure to pass their love for traditional home-style Japanese cuisine to Maiko and her sister. At Bessou, you can sense the warmth and passion as soon as you enter and, yes, it feels like home.
The interior resembles a Japanese dining room with wood paneling throughout the space, a centered lighting fixture in the ceiling like a candle lantern and yet, it preserves New York’s industrial hip vibe with reclaimed brick walls and steel elements at the bar.
The super-friendly and accommodating service, along with the warm feeling you get when enjoying Bessou’s comfort food, makes you feel relaxed as you enter into another world, a world of peace and serenity, which is most welcome after a hectic day in the city. The wood tables have an earthy presentation like a Japanese Zen Garden, set up with a stone that serves as a chopstick holder along with white porcelain plates.
All this is also reflected in the menu. Fast forward to the present time, Bessou’s dishes are a modern take on everyday Japanese comfort food. Each ingredient is carefully sourced and considered for a seasonal menu that changes with the seasons.
This restaurant is not to be compared with your favorite sushi place, because it is nothing like it as I quickly found out. The only dish remotely close to what I am used to when eating out in a Japanese restaurant, and only by the taste, is the Salmon Ikura, arranged with salmon sashimi, ikura, wasabi aioli and dill on deep fried crispy sushi rice. It also comes with Yellowfin Tuna and Spicy tuna. It is delicious and was one of my favorite dishes that night along with the seared Wagyu Steak, imported from Australia, served with caper oroshi salsa and black garlic teriyaki.
We also tasted some of Bessou’s home-style bites like the roasted Brussels Sprouts dish in a sesame dressing, which features different vegetables depending on the season. We also enjoyed a Smoked Soy Farm Egg, an Applewood-smoked soy pickled egg and karashi crema, and Shiso Cigars, which is a combination of roasted peanuts and walnuts rolled with Sendai miso. Usually, the Shiso Cigars are deep fried, yet executive Chef Emily Yuen gives it a twist by leaving the leaves natural, allowing a hint of freshness to it.
If you are looking for larger dishes to satisfy your appetite, Bessou offers Tempura Udon, which are northern-style silky inaniwa udon noodles, one of the best noodles in Japan, with assorted tempura and a house-made dipping sauce. Or try the Chicken Karaage, a Japanese-style fried chicken seasoned with Moroccan spices, ginger braised kabocha squash, and shiso tzatziki. A Sashimi Handroll Platter, which consists of assorted sashimi served over steamed rice, shiso garlic sauce, nori wrappers and accouterments, might be a good choice if you want to venture closer to your typical sushi dinner. A meat alternative to the Wagyu Steak is provided with the smoked Pork Chashuu Wraps, served with tomato hijiki rice and Bibb lettuce with spicy miso and lemon sauce.
A great selection of sake, ranging from juicy and fragrant to rich and bold, awaits you at Bessou. If you are in the mood for a beer , Bessou’s beverage menu offers three Japanese beer choices and one U.S. beer from Sag Harbor, NY. For wine, there are two sparkling wines, a Prosecco Natural and Rosé Brut, both Italian, four excellent selections of white wines from Spain and France, one Rosé Blaufraenkisch from Austria, and two reds from France. All are available either by the glass or bottle.
You will discover that all of Bessou’s dishes have a creative spin to what is considered traditional Japanese home- style cuisine. In that sense, Bessou is a mix of all things that Maiko appreciates, it is a love letter to the life that she wants to share with her guests.
Photography by Paul Quitoriano