Restaurant Review: GG Tokyo Brings the Izakaya Vibe to Manhattan

gg tokyo full bar shot photo by gail worley
All Photos By Gail

A major perk of authoring this website is discovering fantastic, neighborhood-adjacent dining spots that I probably wouldn’t have walked by on my own. Located within a comfortable walking distance from the east village, but also technically midtown adjacent, GG Tokyo is a fun and cool spot for intimate dining and cocktails that I’m excited to have on my radar.

sakeseas neon sculpture by kate hush photo by gail worley

Modeled after a traditional Japanese Izakaya, GG Tokyo offers a unique dining experience inspired by Tokyo’s vibrant Golden Gai district. With its innovative Japanese-inspired dishes, including shareable small plates and an impressive selection of sushi, this restaurant is an ideal destination for a date night, a meal with friends, or after-hours drinks and lite-bites enjoyed amid cozily-lit, art-infused decor.

An intimate lounge at the front of the space (seats 15, making it perfect for accommodating a large party) is illuminated by a whimsical neon sculpture, Sakeseas, designed by Detroit-based neon artist Kate Hush. Depicting a colorful mermaid being served from a floating bottle of sake, this image is also seen on the printed menu and throughout the restaurant’s branding, giving her a bit of a  fun “Mascot” feel.

gg tokyo entrance photo by gail worley

GG Tokyo is connected to the Park South Hotel by an entrance adjacent to the bar, and with its understated exterior, it ranks among one of the area’s true hidden gems. If you’re someone who enjoys the Tapas dining experience, GG Tokyo will be right up your alley, as the menu items are designed and conceptualized for sharing.

bar separated from sushi bar photo by gail worley

Before we get down to the food and booze, let me show you around the space a bit. The dining area features low top tables, a six-seat sushi counter  (far right in the above photo), and bar seating. A narrow shoji screen separates the sushi bar area for added intimacy.

bronze bikini sculpture photo by gail worley

Happy Hour drink specials run from 5:30 – 7:00 PM nightly. If you choose to sit at the bar, maybe ask the bartender for the story behind the Bronzed Bikini displayed behind him. I sure would like to know.

gg tokyo dining area wall art photo by gail worley

Among the restaurant’s unique artworks  is a mural by Alabama-born artist Daniel Dugan composed of a single, endless brush-stroke weaving along the wall running the length of the dining room. This is where we chose to sit, so we could scope out all the action.

sakura fizz photo by gail worley

The beverage program, created by Beverage Director Ivan Papic (Pastis and Balthazar, Macao Trading Company) and Head Bartender Sasa Radovanovic (Schilling NYC and Paul’s Casablanca) features popular classic cocktails with a Japanese twist.  We started our evening with the Sakura Fizz (pictured above). This fragrant, slightly sweet and very refreshing cocktail is made with cherry blossom infused Roku gin, shiso citrus, lemon, hibiscus and seltzer water. Sip it slow!

cocktail menu photo by gail worley
kamikaze cocktail photo by gail worley

My dining companion also enjoyed the Kamikaze, made with sen-cha infused Haku vodka, shies citrus syrup, lemon, and seltzer. She raved endlessly about how good it was.

tomodachi cocktail photo by gail worley

My next cocktail adventure was the Tomodachi, featuring Casamigos tequila, ume plum liqueur, agave, butterfly pea flower (which lends it that rich purple color), and furikake. Pretty and potent!

long shot of dining area photo by gail worley
gg tokyo food menu photo by gail worley

We were very hungry and everything sounded so good, so we chose four dishes to share, starting out with the Pork Gyoza ($12).

gyoza dumplings and sauce photo by gail worley

These tender and juicy dumplings were served steamed-side up, but underneath each was fried golden on one side, for the perfect mouthfeel in every bite. Gyoza are perhaps my favorite Japanese appetizer and these were scrumptious.

marinated skirt steak with chorizo hash photo by gail wolery

Next up was the perfectly-grilled marinated Skirt Steak ($30) sliced and served over a generous mound of Sweet Potato and Chorizo Hash. The chunks of chorizo have the rich, smoky flavor usually associated with bacon,  which pairs well with the tender sweet potato nuggets, making this a very hearty and satisfying dish with a surprisingly complex flavor profile. Outstanding!

rice cakes photo by gail worley

We were both very curious to try the Spicy Gochujang Rice Cakes ($16), tube-shaped glutinous rice cakes which are pleasantly crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside. Drenched in sweet and spicy gochujang chili sauce with caramelized onions and garnished with sliced scallions and sesame seeds, the umami in this dish is off-the-charts. This is a very generous portion easily shared by 2 or 3 people.

kara age fried chicken photo by gail worley

My favorite dish of the night was the Kara-age ($18); Japanese fried chicken served with a lemony katsuo tartar sauce that really elevates the dish. These golden nuggets were lightly fried to a perfect crispiness but still juicy and flavorful. I would definitely order this dish again, but I would probably want it all for myself.

people at the bar photo by gail worley

The experience of sharing lots of different dishes makes dining out so much more fun and satisfying, I think. Dish-for-dish it works out to about the same prices, or maybe even less, as ordering a full-sized entree and appetizer.

macha ice cream with candied orange photo bu gail worley

The restaurant currently has just one dessert on offer, the Macha (Green Tea) Ice Cream topped with Candied Orange and served on  a bed of crumbled Butter Cookies ($8). This a lovely and light final dish to complete a delicious meal.

mango sorbet photo by gail worley

If Macha isn’t your preferred flavor, please ask your friendly server for the secret sorbet selection of the day — this one is  Mango.

shelves at bar photo by gail worley

GG Tokyo is Located at 120 East 28th Street, between Park and Third Avenues, in NYC. Hours are Tuesday – Thursday 5:30 PM – 12:00 Midnight, and Friday – Saturday 5:30 PM – 1:00 AM. Visit Them Online Here

view of front lounge area with neon sculpture photo by gail worley

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