Izakaya Mew: NYC’s Hidden Gem in the Heart of Midtown

Follow the crowds to Izakaya Mew and you will soon learn why this Japanese restaurant is so popular with the locals. Arriving early on a Saturday night around 5:30, we found the tables were already full and several people were waiting for a coveted seat. There was a fun energy of happy people enjoying great food in a cozy, casual atmosphere.

The restaurant is actually housed in the basement of an older building on 35th Street and is easy to miss if you are not paying attention. We passed right by it the first time, and had to make a U-turn and search for the small banner with Izakaya Mew in small letters at the top of the stairs leading down to the dining room.

Manager Ya Kee Chan says:

“Izakaya Mew is a gem hidden in the basement of the busiest street of midtown. We combined the flavors of traditional Japanese cuisine with the dynamic trends of New York’s food culture, adding in our own twists to create Japanese-style tapas that would serve a wide range of palates.” 

Location:53 W 35thStreet Basement, New York City

Just a few blocks north of the Empire State Building, Izakaya Mew is in the middle of all the action. Located near Madison Square Garden, Macy’s, Grand Central Station, and Times Square, diners can easily enjoy so many different attractions before or after eating at Izakaya Mew.

Menu:Izakaya Mew has quite an extensive menu, with many of the standard Japanese dishes you would expect like sushi, tempura, ramen noodles, teriyaki, and crab rolls.

My wife enjoyed her Orange Salmon, with tender fish topped by slices of Mandarin Oranges and a subtle sauce. I ordered the spareribs, which were tender and flavorful, and paired well with the eggplant and red peppers. 

According to the manager, some of the more popular dishes include: Omusoba / Yakitori / Kimchi Cream Udon / Salmon Sashimi Tacos / Yellowtail Carpaccio.

Thoughts: The dangling lights and chandelier, the brick walls, exposed ductwork, and wooden planked tables all add to the simple but trendy atmosphere. Izakaya Mew is a great place to share lunch or dinner and a good time with family and friends. And because seating is a bit tight, you may make new friends as you share your space and experience in this hip hangout. 

I thought this was a perfect example of what to like about New York. Busy, active, hectic, fun. Almost hidden down in a basement on 35thStreet, I felt like I had discovered a secret known only to the locals. That, as a tourist, dumb luck had brought me here. This is the type of place New Yorkers are proud to claim for themselves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We did not feel out of place, and we were treated great. We were just happy that we had found a piece of authentic New York that we did not have to share with hundreds of tourists.

Just before going to dinner, we had walked through Times Square, past Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. We made a stop at Macy’s, the largest store in the world, and then took a peak at Herald Square. After dinner, we walked a few blocks to the Empire State Building. 

Even though I had been up this marvel of engineering twice before, I felt compelled to once again browse the displays and take the high speed elevator up to the 86thfloor. I always get a thrill from looking out at the skyline of New York from the observation deck. Seeing the Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, the lights of the countless skyscrapers, and the Statue of Liberty barely visible in the darkness of the night sent chills down my spine. 

It was such a great evening, soaking so much of New York in a short amount of time.

Chatting with our waiter, Ken, we learn he is a new father. We shared a few parenting stories, and immediately felt a connection to Ken and his family. He patiently described some menu items, and helped us choose some that met our criteria. For example, my wife won’t eat raw fish, eel, octopus, squid, or anything that is ugly – but there was plenty of other stuff to choose from.

Looking around at the crowded restaurant, I smiled and felt so content. I can’t really put my finger on it, but Izakaya Mew has cobbled together a winner with this local restaurant. From the regular customers who knew the menu inside and out to the newbie tourist type like ourselves, this New York hideaway makes for the perfect Big Apple dining experience.

As Ka Yee, one of the manager’s said, “Other than food, we also pay a lot of attention in the atmosphere and service. We want everyone to enjoy after a long day of work or a harsh day at school. The bar is always open, and guests can wait for their table while enjoying a glass of frozen beer and chat away. Their table will be ready before they know it.”

The organization behind Izakaya Mew and eight other locations in NYC is HAND Hospitality. HAND has been very successful in bringing authentic ethnic food to the city, and is especially excited about the opening of their newest restaurant in Flushing, Queens, in March 2019.

“HAND” stands for Have A Nice Day, the most common goodbye they hear from customers.  After eating at Izakaya Mew, you’ll be in such a good mood that you too will be saying “Have A Nice Day”!

Prices: Entrees are from $9 to $15, with small dishes and sides from $6 to $10, and salads from $10 to $12. Happy hour sake and house wines are $4 to $5. The total bill for two people, with two entrees, a crab roll, a side, wine and a shared dessert, is around $60.

Disclosure: The author received a complimentary meal from the restaurant.

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