Akiko Katayama is a food journalist based in New York City and a frequent judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”
She has worked as an advisor to the Japanese government to connect the U.S. and Japanese food markets and consults for private companies in the food and beverage industry.
Here, we ask Katayama about Japanese food in New York City and which trends to keep an eye on.
Q. What‘s your take on the state of Japanese cuisine in NYC?
A. It is wonderful! There are nearly 1,500 Japanese restaurants in NYC, and Japanese cuisine seems very popular.
“Zagat New York City 2014” says it has the highest average score (23.87) followed by the French (22.08) among the 2,084 restaurants in the guide.
Also, 18 percent of the 3 and the 4 star restaurants in “The New York Times Restaurant Review” are Japanese.
Its popularity shows how open-minded and curious New Yorkers are about Japanese food.
Q. What do you think of the Ramen trend?
A. Exciting! Until recently, New Yorkers used to think Japanese cuisine meant sushi, but they have started to see that sushi is just a part of it. Ramen is a great example. I hope they will soon discover more and more diverse types of Japanese food.
I am also impressed that many American chefs are inspired by ramen. Harris Salat, the owner of Ganso in Brooklyn, which offers great ramen, once said, “Ramen seems to be a simple food, but the Japanese brought it to the level of art.”
And Chef Bryce Shuman at Betony in Midtown created a pasta dish with soup that is similar to ramen soup with lots of umami flavor. I truly respect the creative mind of American chefs that can give the traditional food a new perspective.