Located on the corner of Madison Avenue and 30th Street, this new yakitori spot showcases an open, clean and modern look, with touches of old-school Japan seen throughout the establishment. NoNoNo is only two weeks old (as of this writing) and it shows a lot of promise with their fundamental concept of making full use of the entire chicken. It's emblazoned front and center in their menu that they use all the meat in their skewered dishes, while taking the remainder of the bones and creating the base for their ramen broth.
Honestly, every restaurant should be making every effort to use their fresh items in full. Waste not, want not.
Before I start, I would like to say the service was excellent. We were quickly seated, and the servers were friendly and attentive. As it relates to service, I have zero complaints or concerns.
That said, while I'd love to give a blanket statement and speak to how amazing all of the food was, I have to give more context for each food item. There were some dishes that were outstanding, while others were just meh. My job here to help you steer away from the meh so that you have an outstanding experience. So, let's begin.
Happy Hour: YES, they have happy hour specials 5 to 7, mostly consisting of house sake (which isn't bad at all - pretty smooth), draft beer and house wine. (YAY!) I actually would have liked my sake a little colder, if you can believe that. They do have a full service bar, along with special cocktail options that looked very interesting, but food was the main attraction.
Yakitori: When I think yakitori, there are three elements that should be present: a solid cut of meat, balanced seasoning and perfect grilling. They got 2 out of 3 of these elements. Some items were grilled well, generating that nice bit of crispiness and char on the skin. Others just didn't hold up.
The winners: chicken wing (center bottom), shishito peppers left bottom, tsukune/chicken meatball (not pictured). Perfect seasoning and it was grilled long enough where you got the crispness and right amount of char.
The "losers": Pretty much everything else. Neck meat and beef skirt steak (top left) - great flavor and seasoning, not enough charring. Chicken oyster, thigh, pork with tare, chicken skin (top center)... again, good flavor, not enough char. The skin specifically needs to cook well because it's all fat; it should have been easy to render that down to a crisp, but it just didn't cut it. (Sidenote: I really enjoyed the chicken oyster cut - first time I actually ate it.) Breast w scallions (top right) - the breast was a little overcooked and didn't have any crisp to it. You'd normally spray some oil on it to encourage browning, but I'm not sure what their specific techniques for handling items w little to no fat on it are. And last, the scallops. By far the most disappointing was the scallops (bottom right). We know it's mostly water, but there's ways to mitigate that so the flavor stays with the meat. The scallops were also overcooked. That made me sad.
Of the "loser" bunch, I'd still try the chicken oyster (it's a fun flavorful and meaty cut), and the skirt steak. All of the others need to have a revisit on the grilling process and tighten it up so that it feels like it was grilled.
Other Dishes: The biggest surprise - and honestly, the most standout dishes, were not yakitori. The tako sumiso (far left) showcased lightly cooked octopus accompanied by the cool freshness of cucumber and served with vinegared miso. Such a refreshing cold dish. This is a suggested starter.
Then you have the daichi mushroom (2nd from left) - grilled mushrooms with a scallop basil sauce. Although the mushrooms are on the moist side (you can do something about it), the sauce truly makes the dish. The basil is so rich and fresh, with the mousse-like texture in the button popping in your mouth in a most refreshing way. Highly recommended.
By far my favorite dish is the chicken chashu (middle) - a slow cooked chicken served with yuzu-flavored pepper and grated radish. The chicken melts in your mouth, moist and rich with flavor. Then add in the crunchiness of radish and kick from the pepper - it's nothing short of amazing. A must order dish.
They have two different types of ramen (2nd from right): miso and shoyu (soy sauce) based. My companion ordered the ramen but I did taste it. The shoyu ramen flavor was rich but surprisingly mild. They don't serve it with egg - which for me is fine because I don't eat egg, but many people would find that suspect and non-Japanese. It's a matter of personal preference. Since ramen isn't the main draw here, it's something nice to have and DOES taste good, but I personally prefer ramen from places specializing in the stuff.
The oddball in this great dish run is the nonono kara-age - their fried chicken (right). Normally, kara-age is boneless and the chicken is coated with katakuriko (potato starch) for the batter. Their chicken is on the bone - drumstick vs the traditional thigh meat - (first oddity) and they appear to use a tempura batter (second oddity). Lastly, they "lollipop" the meat os that it's at the end of the bone (third and final oddity). Flavor-wise it was fine, well seasoned and generally okay. I wasn't blown away by this dish because of the oddities, but most notably, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of meat on it. I would pass on this one.
Dessert: This homemade yuzu sorbet is THE TRUTH. I'm not a dessert person and this lifted my spirits. With every bite, you feel your soul being cleansed with the citrusy goodness of yuzu. It was the right balance of sweet and citrus - a PERFECT ending to our extensive meal. My taste buds were rejuvenated in its aftermath. Just stellar.
So all in all, there are plenty of gems here. Despite ordering a ton of food, their menu is vast and varied, so it is worth another visit to see how the many other items are. I recommend it for a very chill visit and for all of the winning dishes that made the difference.