I have a feeling I’ll enjoy this meal – if we can ever find the restaurant. According to Google Maps, we’ve walked by the place ( at the Park South Hotel on 120 E 28th St) at least two times, and I’m beginning to feel a vague heartbeat of panic when I realize we are right in front of it. Welcome to GG Tokyo.
Short and squat, and disappearing amongst the sea of taller and more statuesque art-deco buildings around us, it has a lot of potted plants surrounding the façade, with a sunken entrance a few feet below ground level. After making several gallant attempts to push open the door when I am supposed to, in fact, pull, we enter.
The Beverages at GG Tokyo
The first round includes GG Tokyo’s house cocktail, The Golden Monkey. Fantastically, it reminds me of cheese foam tea in the best way possible. The bartender uses a small blowtorch to scorch the cinnamon garnish, and this adds to the heady aroma and bonfire feel of the beverage.
My eating companion and photographer enthusiastically compliments its creaminess, acidity, and balance. Sweet and smoky, with a very pleasant, rich foam courtesy of the egg white, it is the standout beverage of the evening. The Tomodachi brings back memories of a certain Chinese plum juice that I overzealously consumed in my youth (I regret nothing). Deeply fruity and a touch floral, it is reminiscent of summertime, when stone fruits are at their peak in flavor and aroma.
The glass is rimmed with furikake, a popular Japanese rice garnish, which adds the familiar pop of salinity while also allowing the surprisingly earthy notes of sesame and seaweed to complement the vibrancy of the overall drink. My companion, who maintains a longstanding prejudice against plums, takes one sip and lets me finish the rest.
Our second round of beverages brings us The Kamikaze, which does not exactly explode in an effervescence of unmatched taste but is nonetheless extremely refreshing thanks to the lemon and seltzer. The sencha flavor is not strongly pronounced but offers just enough gravity to prevent the drink from feeling too airy.
Citrusy and light, we both agree that it pairs quite well with a seafood-heavy meal. The Mermaid, however, is neither mine nor my companion’s favorite. I taste nothing of the beet-infused rum, nor sake, nor yuzu. In fact, it is difficult to imagine any restaurant patron enjoying this mix of cloying, overly saccharine sweetness with the unmistakable flavor of burnt rubber and diesel. Perhaps this is an homage to the current polluted state of our global oceans? I do not know. I do not recommend it.
Both sushi rolls arrive simultaneously. My companion goes for the spicy salmon roll first, so I opt to try the GG roll. It is unassuming in appearance but packs a surprising depth of flavor and mouthfeel.
Each bite-sized piece is a statement of luxury – the perfectly crisp shrimp tempura, velvety smooth avocado, and unctuous salmon belly are designed to captivate the senses and melt into the palate. The roll is spared the questionably unfortunate fate of being deemed shamelessly rich; the seasoned sushi rice and wasabi tobiko keep each bite on the right side of decadent.
The spicy salmon roll is excellent alone. Alongside the eponymous GG roll, however, it does feel somewhat slighted. The quality of the fish is unquestionable; it looks and tastes immaculately fresh. It is also significantly lighter in the mouthfeel than the GG roll, despite the deliciously crunchy sticks of hairy potato.
This is mainly due to the addition of serrano pepper, which adds a devilish bite that, for whatever curious reason, reaches every corner of my mouth except my tongue. While my eating companion and I both agree that the subtlety and uncomplicatedness of this roll are nice, we also agree that the GG roll (accurately described by him as a “butter shot to the mouth”) is by far its superior.
The Small Plates
The small plates begin to arrive. First comes the marinated skirt steak, beautifully sliced and plated over a bed of chorizo hash and served with a gochujang vinaigrette. While chorizo has never been my sausage of choice, I can appreciate its savory smokiness complementing the char on the steak.
The potatoes, however, I can appreciate on every level. They are crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. They are tasty alone and tastier with the steak. They are perfectly cooked in rendered chorizo fat.
And the steak itself is excellently prepared, with no pesky silver skin to ruin the meat in its buttery softness, and its own umami is enhanced by the deeply unmistakable funk of fermented gochujang.
The okonomiyaki is served last and looks like a glorious mess. It is hot, creamy, crunchy, sweet, and savory. It is a textural delight. The apple is the surprise star ingredient, happily bequeathing its refreshing acidity and fruity sweetness to the other rich and briny components. The bonito flakes are thinner than paper, melt on the tongue, and become wrapped up in the creamy, tangy mixture of mayonnaise and barbecue sauce.
The fried ramen pieces add heft and a satisfying crunch. The pancake itself is excellently seasoned and well fried, superbly light and crispy and not soggy with oil. This dish arrives after we are done with the skirt steak, but I can’t shake the feeling that the two would have made a uniquely tasty pairing (a missed opportunity, or more reason to return?).
Ice cream is the perfect way to end a meal. Here, the earthy and vegetal matcha is blended into creamy goodness that remains not overly sweet. The toasted buckwheat garnish provides textural excitement, and its nutty, buttery aroma pairs perfectly with the springtime grassiness of the matcha.
There is no chalky aftertaste, nor any unproperly whisked matcha clumps hiding in the ice cream base. It is homogeneous and a wonderfully crafted dessert. No matter how much food one has consumed (in this case, not much), one shall always find room for ice cream.
This place screams “date night.” Maybe it is the section of front-facing window seats that are really more like lounge benches, or the perfectly flattering amber light, or the music that is weird remixes of today’s pop hits played at just the right volume. Still, the overall atmosphere is moody and, dare I say, romantic.
The service is slow, and friendly but not overbearing, with the bar staff putting their agility on display with each cocktail. The food is delicious and of solid quality, if overpriced for the serving size.
The flavors are fresh without being completely unique. Go for the vibe, enjoy the mixed drinks, get a roll and a small plate apiece. Then, duck out and get a mountain of criminally tasty Korean fried chicken from K-town a few blocks away. At least, that’s what we did. (And we would do it again.)
Three Best Bites
- The Golden Monkey cocktail is a perfect blend of aroma and flavor.
- The okonomiyaki is a revelation of textural elements, with a few surprises built in.
- The GG roll doesn’t even need soy sauce. Order it and thank me later.
The bathroom is actually located outside the restaurant, in the adjacent hotel lobby. You’ll go through a somewhat discreet paneled door, and then you’ll look lost enough to warrant unsolicited instruction from the hotel staff. It is a co-ed bathroom, so don’t be alarmed if you see anyone and everyone walking out to wash their hands.
120 E 28th St, New York, NY 10016