Kaiseki is an elevated form of traditional Japanese washoku cuisine that is served as a multi-course meal and based on hyper-seasonal ingredients. Kōyō, located in Astoria, is one of just a handful of New York restaurants that focuses on kaiseki cuisine and is the vision of Chef/Owner Jay Zheng. Zheng comes from a family of Chinese immigrants that fulfilled their American Dream by opening eight successful restaurants across the country. Zheng learned the ins-and-outs of the restaurant industry by traveling the country with his father to scout locations for new restaurant concepts and build each from the kitchen up.
After the 2008 financial crisis, Zheng decided to challenge himself and entered the hotel hospitality industry and went to work at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. There, he was exposed to the world of fine dining and found inspiration for his future pursuits. Zheng opened his first Japanese restaurant in 2012 in Indiana where he immersed himself in Japanese culture and learned how to source the best fish.
In 2016, Zheng left Chicago to return to his hometown, New York, to pursue his dream of working in fine dining and opened Gaijin with Chef Mark Garcia (now of Kissaki Sushi). After parting ways with Chef Garcia, Zheng launched the first iteration of Kōyō in the same location in 2019. After the pandemic hit and restaurants were shut down, Zheng decided to finally step into the spotlight and begin his work as Kōyō’s Executive Chef, relaunching the restaurant in a new direction and focusing on a kaiseki tasting menu.
Zheng’s vision has transformed Kōyō from a restaurant that focused largely on its omakase sushi offerings to a Kaiseki dining experience including hot dishes that Zheng has designed by infusing his Chinese cultural background into traditional Japanese cuisine.
For Kōyō’s fall Kaiseki menu, Zheng has created a seven-course experience that focuses on the traditional seasonal bounties, beginning with the amuse bouche or Sakizuke, composed of Hokkaido Scallops that are typically harvested between late summer and late autumn and Hanasaki Crab topped with caviar and served with a crab miso kimizu.
The second course is Hassun, a collection of smaller bites intended to be eaten clockwise around the circular dish. The dish begins with seasonal sashimi cuts, followed by Smoked Anago, Sujiko, fresh young salmon roe with braised Daikon and lastly, Razor Clams steamed in Sake with yuzu garlic.
Following the Hussun is the grilled course, Yakimono; sanma, also known as Autumn Swordfish, grilled over Hoba leaf in a koji miso marinade, with oyster mushrooms.
The fourth course is a soup course, Suimono. The soup is made with Madai or seabream and the highly prized Matsutake Mushroom, served in a Dobin Mushi with sudachi.
The final dinner course is Nigirizushi, which is eight pieces of sushi and a handroll composed from the freshest fish from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain, each individually selected and prepared by Zheng using Kamini rice with a mixture of red and white wine vinegars. These chef selections will change weekly.
The meal ends with Mizumono, the dessert course, the chef’s choice of a seasonal Japanese sweet paired with freshly brewed matcha.
Diners can choose to add supplemental dishes such as: Uni Ikura Donburi, uni with ikura and oyster mushrooms; Uni Toro Toast, uni with taro and caviar served on milk bread; an Uni Tasting, or an Extended Nigiri course, which contains an extra five pieces of sushi.
The beverage program is a collaboration between Zheng and Wing Yee of World Sake Importers. Together they choose the finest and rarest sakes that enhance the overall kaiseki experience and rotates based on market availability. Kōyō also offers a number of Japanese craft beers with more diverse options like the Oze No Yukidoke IPA and the Kizakura Matcha IPA.
The space is warmly lit and stark with natural wood accents. An eight-seat white marble Chef’s counter can be found as guests enter with a spotlight in front of each diner’s seat to bring premium focus to the dishes presented. An open kitchen where hot dishes and grilled dishes are being prepared can be seen from the dining room, where customers can get a firsthand look at the chef’s cooking and plating the different dishes for the kaiseki experience.
Kōyō’s spacious outdoor patio located through the restaurant’s backdoor features a roof that allows diners to comfortably enjoy their meal outdoors rain or shine.
For takeout and delivery through their website as well as UberEats.