Secchu Yokota
Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Secchu Yokota

Tempura omakase course offered at a reasonable price in a theater-like setting has quickly become the talk of the town

By Aya Ota

At the east end of the East Village district on Alphabet City which is not really an ideal location, there is a restaurant that has been consistently having a good flow of customers since its opening. It is “Seccu Yokota”. There are 8 counter seats only, and rotations are limited to only 2 per day. They serve a tempura-based omakase tasting course at $65. The restaurant gained popularity very quickly as “A place where you can get a high-quality course meal with many different dishes at a reasonable price”. They do not advertise or even have a sign in front, but they are always busy with customers who come from far away, frequent repeaters who often come monthly, etc.

The owner/chef, Atsushi Yokota, shares how the name of the restaurant came about, as “the principle of Japanese cuisine is wayo-secchu (blend of Japanese and Western style), and so is mine”. He grew up in a circumstance where both his father and the grandfather were chefs, so it was natural to get into the cooking world for Mr. Yokota who developed a delicate palate since childhood. In Japan, he started his cooking career in French cuisine. After coming to U.S. in 1998, he has continued to create imaginative and original wayo-secchu cuisine by working in various different restaurants, and by blending world-wide ingredients and Japanese and Western techniques.

The course starts with two appetizers which are full of seasonal ingredients. Mr. Yokota goes to a farmer’s market himself to procure the food ingredients, comes up with a menu according to what he purchased, and makes everything from scratch. The signature appetizer is the “Oyako Pâté”. This dish was hinted by the “Oyako Donburi” which is a very familiar dish to Japanese people, and served with pâté made from aged sashimi-grade fresh chicken mixed with soft-boiled eggs. This harmony created by the combination of pâté and eggs is superb, and represents the extracted concept of wayo-secchu. Next, you get 7 to 8 different tempura pieces consisting of vegetables and seafood cooked right in front of you. Since the restaurant is not a tempura specialty restaurant, the imagination is unconventional. Sometimes unique tempura where no other restaurant ventures such as of seaweed-marinated flounder, miso-marinated butter fish and others are served. To end the course, a rice or soba dish is usually served, but occasionally, things like tongue stew, lamb chop, curry rice, or meunière are served, which will surely tempt you to visit again. The dessert is ample in volume, and satisfying. The Japanese sake selection changes often with the season, and the volume is generous compared to other restaurants, yet the pricing is lower.

What makes it possible for them to offer such a high-quality course meal at such a reasonable price remains a secret of efficient operations and cost management. Only three staff including Mr. Yokota; 2 chefs and 1 server, works there. They share every task from dish washing to paper-work equally amongst themselves. The number of customers are set, and the menu is omakase style, which minimizes the waste of ingredients. The fixed costs such as labor and food are very well managed. Even the customers need to accept the restaurant’s system. To limit the rotations per day to 2, which starts at 6pm and 8:30pm, the cooking won’t usually start until all 8 seats are filled. If you are late, you may trouble the rest of the people waiting, so every customer needs to be conscious about punctuality. Not only for efficiency in operations, but this rule is also essential to serve temperature and time-sensitive tempura and other cooked food at the best possible timing. The restaurant can accommodate for the allergies of customers, but not for other details such as likes and dislikes in foods. They take reservations only by phone so they won’t miss explaining the system firmly in advance. “It is alright to accept only the kind of customers who love our food, and accept the system.” It sounds a bit too optimistic to me. It is a different attitude, and they are a unique presence in the restaurant industry in New York where you may find many arrogant customers at times. “The customers and the restaurant should be equal. I would like to create a trusting and respectful relationship with the customers,” Mr. Yokoto continues.

“Our restaurant is like a theater where people buy $65-tickets to enjoy a 2-and-a-half hour show.” He is confident that no one can mimic his cooking which is based on indisputable techniques and experiences. I heard that many chefs in the same industry come, and enjoy exchanging information. Please try to go “Secchu Yokota” where you can find something new and be impressed every time.







Secchu Yokota
199 East 3rd Street
New York, NY 10009
Tel: (212) 777-1124

Mon–Thu: 6:00pm–11:00pm
Fri-Sat: 6:00pm-12:00am
Closed on Sunday