It took five long years of suspense, but we’re finally about to taste what will likely be the most talked-about new hamburger in town.
Sushi-master Masa Takayama, 63, opened his oft-delayed Tetsu Tuesday night behind an unmarked steel-and-glass door at 78 Leonard St. in Tribeca. Unlike at his sushi-centric uptown restaurants — ultra-pricey Masa, pricey-enough Kappo Masa and cheaper Bar Masa — sushi’s an afterthought to Tetsu’s mostly robata-grilled lineup of meat and fish.
Tetsu is Masa’s first place downtown. The arresting, three-level space boasts 19th-century Corinthian columns and an 8-foot-tall water pipe re-purposed as a flowerpot filled with the red-berry holly known as ilex. The main floor and mezzanine’s 100 seats are sure to be in high demand. The lowest level, for omakase meals, will open early next year.
The mezzanine level at Tetsu.Dacia Pierson
Masa, a man of many arts, has decorated the walls with colorful chalk figures of blowfish, octopus and crab, which he drew himself. But the chalk creatures take a back seat to the menu, which is cheaper than at any of his other places. Familiar-sounding chicken yakitori and vegetable miso soup are just $6; the priciest item, Peking duck tacos with foie gras, comes in at $24.
Masa’s first-ever burgers (beef or lamb) are individually cooked in a clamshell-like cast-iron device “developed with artisans in Japan over many years,” he says. Grisly-looking, iron maiden-like spikes penetrate the meat to make sure it’s cooked through as it’s flash-grilled. The patty’s topped with Taleggio cheese and served on a pretzel bun. Priced just under $20 and served only from 5 to 6 p.m. daily, they’re sure to be in high demand.
Masa first took over the Tetsu space in 2012. He’s switched plans for it more than once before deciding to go the robatayaki (open-fire) route. It’s the sort of place where he would have liked to hang out in his early days.
“I was always looking for a place downtown to relax after work with a great martini and delicious food,” he says. “I couldn’t really find what I was looking for, so I decided to create it myself.”
His restless perfectionism and structural issues bogged things down.
“I want to make sure every detail is how I envisioned [it] and this also takes time,” Masa says. “I chose every finish, piece of furniture and tableware item myself.”
Tetsu's skirt steak
Kale gobo slaw
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