It would be a mistake to call the basement izakaya at Double Knot a secret, just like it would be to assume that you’re the only person who knows about the JFK/Marilyn Monroe affair or to think your friends will be impressed when you point out the arrow in the FedEx logo. But even though everyone already knows about the sushi dungeon downstairs, it still feels like a secret when you’re eating here - a secret that happens to include some seriously incredible food.
Double Knot is a Japanese spot in Midtown Village, and it’s really two restaurants in one. There’s an all-day cafe on the main floor that you could watch on a time-lapse and never catch a moment when it’s not busy. And while it’s usually packed with people eating rice and noodle bowls and working on laptops, at 5pm the lights go down and it turns into more of a bar scene, but with a slightly different menu than what you’ll find at the izakaya below, which is really where you want to be.
Downstairs at Double Knot is a different world - one that you might not know existed if you just walked in off the street looking for a cup of coffee or a wifi signal. It’s guarded by a hostess who will make sure you have a reservation before sending you down the dark back staircase. And it’s flooded each night with people who are all celebrating something - whether it’s a 30th birthday or finally succeeding at housebreaking their dog. But if you’re here on a date or with someone you want to sit next to and have an uninterrupted two-hour conversation with, the long sushi bar up front is the perfect place to enjoy one of the best tasting menus in the city.
While you can also order a la carte, the $60, 10-dish tasting menu will get you the best variety from the huge menu. And as soon as you put your order in, it’s like the lights dim and the staff begins a synchronized ballet of dishes that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room. The minute you finish your two thin pieces of raw salmon topped with soy ginger and spicy ponzu, that plate is whisked away and replaced with a bowl of two perfect edamame dumplings in a sake broth that’s so light and savory you’ll do whatever’s necessary to get the last drop.
There are so many standouts during a meal here that you’ll find yourself spilling the not-so-secret to anyone who will listen. Like the shrimp tempura taco topped with mango and radish slaw that we’d climb a moderately steep hill for if one were waiting at the top, or the slew of robatayaki skewers, each better than the one that came before. But those two things are just a small part of Double Knot’s extensive menu, which ranges from sushi to larger plates like chicken teriyaki and beef short rib, and where every dish is so good that you’ll want to order two tasting menus just for yourself next time.
As much as you may want it to be, the basement at Double Knot is far from a secret. The food is just too good to have stayed quiet, which means that reservations here aren’t easy to come by. And although you probably won’t be able to walk in on a Tuesday night and grab a table last minute, getting a reservation here gives you the kind of rush you normally only get when your friend says, “I need to tell you something but you have to promise you won’t tell anyone.” Except at Double Knot, you won’t be able to keep that promise, but that’s kind of the point.
Two perfect pieces of salmon topped with soy ginger and a light, spicy ponzu sauce. It’ll only last a few seconds, but if you were Adam Sandler from that movie Click, they’re the few seconds you’d rewind to over and over again.
Actually, if you have that magic remote, you might as well just use it to come back for this hamachi as well. It’s topped with serrano and a shallot-ginger relish, and it’s fantastic.
The robatayaki section on Double Knot’s menu is full of skewers that will make you wonder why everything isn’t served on a stick, but our two favorites are the buttery swordfish belly, and the tender, sweet ribeye scallion.
Fried shrimp on a tiny soft shell topped with radish, avocado, and chilis. We could happily come here and order ten of these and nothing else.
Truffle can often take over a dish and make all the other flavors completely disappear, but that’s not the case with these dumplings, which sit in a sake truffle broth that you just might spill on yourself trying to get the last drop.
There are a lot of things on this menu worth getting, but the seabass is one of the few that we suggest you skip. Not because it’s bad - just because there are too many other things more worth your time.