Left: Kara Age, Right: The Mr. Jones Cocktail
Mr. Jones has succeeded in making yakitori sexy. So sexy, in fact, I am getting flustered underneath my buttoned up lace collar recounting last night. It all started when Jam Master Jay called with a sly, "Free this evening?" I immediately canceled my date.
Walking up to the plywood covered façade of Mr. Jones on busy East 14th Street, it felt like a secret mission involving a password (“Yaki! Tori!”), secret knock and handshake. After milling about like a pair of post-NYU grads looking to re-live trouble on a Monday night, the hostess finally opened the makeshift plywood door and ushered us inside.
Mr. Jones is a yakitori lounge which embodies the winning combination of Lesly Bernard's nightlife expertise (of Pravda and Tillman’s fame), Bryan Emperor's culinary skills and Shin Ikeda's (Angel Share and B Flat) carefully crafted cocktails. Mention "yakitori" and most images conjured are of smoky robatas, cramped counter seating and a trip to the dry cleaners after. Mr. Jones is none of that. Instead, you are greeted by a retro-mod space with Japanese sake labels adorning the walls, a curved CaesarStone bar and a bevy of sexy and knowledgeable waitresses who know their Junmai from their Daiginjyo.
Master Jay nearly had to restrain me to my chair when the fried chicken came. Impeccably presented in an acrylic serving tube, each piece was fried to crisp perfection, while maintaining the right amount of moisture when I sunk my teeth into them. I have not been this excited all week amidst talks of a failed bailout plan and subsequently, failed appetite.
The Preview Tasting Menu was impressive and I was enamored by the perfectly marinated Berkshire belly skewer. I politely grunted in acknowledgement of my companion, who was diligently recounting his weekend to me. He stopped abruptly as sounds of my chewing and lip-smacking bounced across the room. Accomplished Illusionist and ultra-hottie, Ryan Oakes, glanced over quizzically several times. I swooned (but it could have been the sake).
"What do I have to do to get as much attention as the skewers?" Jam Master whined.
Two words: Bryan Emperor. A Jean-Georges alum, accomplished sushi chef and man of many talents, he is, in this instance, a robata master: basting, skewering and barbecuing his way into my stomach (and hopefully yours soon).
Highlights from the Preview Tasting Menu
peppered bacon wrapped cherry tomato with bib lettuce and Japanese mayonnaise
~Ton Toro Lemon Shisho~
100% Berkshire black hog belly with lemon and Mongolian mountain salt
~Sakura Smoked Duck~
Japanese cherry wood smoked duck breast
Mr. Jones, 243 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10009. Tel: (212) 253-7670