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Kibo Dining Room

On a Saturday night just one month after its opening Kibo is packed. Even in a town like New York where finding a restaurant is as easy as walking a few steps, it sometimes takes awhile for a new eatery to catch on. The latest addition to the BR Guest Inc. hospitality chain, whose illustrious members include Bill's, Atlantic Grill, Blue Fin, Blue Water Grill, Dos Caminos , Isabella's and Fiamma, is an instant hit despite the fact that it has a lot of seats to fill. It looks cavernous, which it is, but, yet, it seems cozy, possibly because the staff is so attentive. Our waiter, a veteran of many jobs in the serving industry, told us that his training for this position was the most rigorous he had ever undergone.

The welcome starts at the entrance. The few steps up to the front door are brightened with red lights. Perhaps this is meant as a twist on a red carpet. Inside the waved panels on the ceiling, the handsome Japanese mural and the brick walls add just enough decoration. The eyes, instead, wander to the robata grill and sushi station.

Even if a menu were printed in very large and bold-faced type I could not read it. So why did I choose to leave my glasses at home? I knew that Yosuke Suga, the chef at l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Paris, was visiting the kitchen that evening. (In fact the menu states, "designed by Joel Robuchon.") According to Kim Gerrard, General Manager, Kibo was born when Steve Hansen, head hocho at BRGuest and Robuchon decided it would be fun to collaborate on a place that served noodles. Knowing that one gets the finest food when the chef makes the choices, I had hoped that Suga would offer to select what we would eat. Even before our drinks order was taken, Suga approached the table, introduced himself, presented his card, and inquired whether he might choose our dinner. "Omakase," said I. "I love Omakase. Oh, my god." And needless to say, the dinner was splendid—small bites, and medium-sized ones, too, of many delicacies. Suba had been fine tuning the dishes since his arrival.

First came an assortment from the robata grill, which included melt-in-your mouth oysters. (I am oyster-phobic, but these were cooked.) Brussels sprouts, prawns in ketafi phyllo, chicken and filet were also on the tray. Other standouts were salmon served in a leaf and miso cod with roasted eggplant. The sushi—uni, yellowtail , fluke, hamachi--was pristinely fresh. We were also offered two kinds of ramen, which included the traditional condiments: mushrooms, fish cake, nori, bean sprouts, scallions and my favorite, soy egg.

Japanese cuisine is not known for its desserts. Kibo is about to change all that. We saw other patrons eating mini ice cream cones and our sweets were refreshingly delightful, raspberries in a lovely sauce and mango sorbet with mango mousse. Eight cocktails, unique to this bar, make it difficult to decide what to drink. We were told that moshi-moshi is like a mojito. It isn't. It's better.

The restaurant serves a prix-fixe $14.95 lunch. Needless to say, I'm going back.

Kibo Japanese Grill, 111 E. 18th St at Park Ave South, New York, NY 10003, 212-824-2770. http://www.KiboNYC.com

Winter 2011-12