Kushi Q… A Proper Review (with some tech porn for the Nerds)

Who doesn’t love meat on a stick?  Who doesn’t love anyting on sticks for that matter?  Put something on a stick, and you’re talking immediate improvement.  Meat.  Apple dipped in caramel.  Imagine taking a hot dog, dipping it in batter, deep frying it, and then eating it- without a stick.  Terrible, right?  Put it on a stick… greatest treat of all time!  So, when I heard about Kushi Q opening on 3rd Ave., I was naturally very excited.  Japanese Yakitori (and other meats), in a “fast food chic” setting.  There are plenty of amazing Yakitori places in Midtown, but they don’t open until the late afternoon.  In Japan, Yakitori is traditionally eaten as an after work snack, or late night in bars called Izakayas.  Kushi Q allows you to enjoy Yakitori for lunch, in Midtown.  Very exciting!

Not discouraged by all the early negativity, I headed over to check Kushi Q out last week…. and was pleasantly surprised.  It’s not without its problems- but the potential is there.  What I got, the +/-, and pictures of futuristic machinery necessary to serve fast food yakitori- after the jump…

Technically Yakitori refers to various chicken parts on a stick, but Kushi Q has more than just chicken.  The grilled chicken is the signature skewer, but there is also fried chicken, bacon, salmon, beef, Japanese berkshire sausage with pineapple, tofu and vegetables.  You can order skewers ala carte (prices ranging from $1.50 to $2.50), or as a Bento Set which comes with rice or salad, miso soup and pickled radish.

DSC03291Much like Oms/b, there are many different combinations available, and it takes some deciphering to figure out.  If you don’t care about variety, the chicken yakitori bento set is the cheapest way to go ($6.50).  The most expensive is the set that allows you to choose your own 3 skewers ($7.90).  The skewers are not huge, but with the rice and soup it can be filling.  You can always add extra skewers, or a side order to complement your meal. 

You can get out of Kushi Q for under $10, but it is going to be on the high end of the Midtown Lunch price scale, and you are not talking about a rediculous amount of food for your money.  But, when compared to most Yakitori places in Midtown (where skewers start at $2.50), it is very reasonably priced.  The quality of the meat is not going to be as good as the sit down places where the skewers are grilled to order- but that’s why Kushi Q is slightly cheaper.

In the end if you go expecting super cheap, meat on a stick, American style (aka big chunks of chicken breast)- you are going to be disappointed.  Too expensive, and not enough food.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you go expecting Grade A yakitori, you will also be disappointed.  The price is right, but the quality and expertise of the grilling will not be there.  Kushi Q lives somewhere in the middle.

The one thing I can complain about is the sweet potato fries.  I was very excited about these for a few reasons.  #1.  They are sweet potato fries!  #2.  They were only $1.50 (for a snack size order).  #3.  They come covered in honey and black sesame seeds.  I know it’s the first week, but the fries were a big let down. 

The first thing…  don’t expect yams (the red potato that one usually thinks of when you think “sweet potato”.  The sweet potato they use is a Japanese variety called Kotobuki, and is a lightly colored potato. This wouldn’t be a big issue if they tasted good… but they didn’t.  Kotobuki are drier and less sweet than traditional Sweet Potatoes, but I don’t think that was it.  I’m not sure if they were undercooked, or what… but I feel pretty confident in saying they were terrible.  Do I just not know what Japanese fries are supposed to taste like?  The honey and sesame seeds touch is amazing, so I’m hoping my order was just an anomaly because they were rushing.

Finally, the coolest part of the place.  The machinery!   The first thing you notice when you walk into Kushi Q, is the chicken skewer dipping mechamism.  Sort of like a conveyer belt of meats on a stick, it rotates in a oval, dipping the skewers in a marinade on either end, while cooking them as they come down each straight-away.  I’m not exactly sure if it serves a purpose (the skewers get brushed with sauce and cooked on the flat grill in addition), but it’s a pretty mesmerizing contraption.

The second contraption is when you pay.  They write your order down on these scantron looking bubble sheets (remember those from Junior High?), and then they slide them through a reader to determine how much you owe.  I’m always concerned about price when eating lunch (I’m fat, and can sometimes get out of control with the ordering), but the scantron machine adds that extra layer of stress while you remind yourself that you’re not being graded on your ordering.

Scantron machines and meat on a stick conveyer belts may not make the lunch worth the extra money (for some), but if you are looking for something fun and different to do on your lunch hour, that involves meat on a stick- Kushi Q is a great addition to Midtown Lunch’ing!

THE +  (What people who like this place would say)

  • Japanese style Meat on Stick… at lunch time!
  • If you are willing to pay for it, it’s great variety
  • Cheaper than a sit down yakitori place in Midtown
  • It’s fun!
  • There’s nothing else like it in Midtown, for lunch
  • It’s grilled, so it’s reasonably healthy compared to a lot of Midtown Lunches

THE – (what people who don’t like this place would say)

  • Depending on what you order, it can get pricey
  • It’s not enough food
  • The quality is not as good as real Yakitori (where’s the char grilled taste!)
  • The chicken is not pure white meat chicken chunks (American Style!)
  • Depending on when you go, you can either get sticks fresh off the grill, or the ones sitting awhile on the plates (but as it gets more and more popular, I think everything will be fresher)
  • The sweet potato fries are terrible!!!!  (At least mine were…)
  • The vegetable skwers are a little weak for the price.
  • Too expensive, and not enough food (did that get mentioned???)

Kushi Q, 723 3rd. St. (btw. 45+46th), 212-682-5238


  • I work a block north of Kushi-Qand have visited twice in the last week. It’s a bit exorbitant for what one gets. My friends and I have left hungry both times. Perhaps we were supposed to? LOL After the inital buzz has worn off let’s see what happens to the pricing structure.

  • I’ve just been once but thought the prices and portions were quite reasonable. The salmon was cooked just right, too, not dried out as one might expect for fast food (nor raw, from overreaching). But I didn’t ask if it was wild because I was afraid of the answer. Probably won’t order it again on that account.

    Lovely to have a place to get Japanese salad but next time I’ll ask if they can mix it up. I try to avoid dressing at my desk.

  • perhaps its a good thing that the portions arent huge (actually i think they were quite perfect if you arent into you know, eating like a cow) given the fact of how most americans look?

  • I can’t believe people think you don’t get not enough food. I thought the portions were just right as well. Twice, I’ve supplemented with an extra stick and realized at the end of the meals that it was completely unnecessary. It’s not perfect, but certainly beats shelling out $8 for a sandwich at Pret.

  • I work a block north of this place and pass it everyday. Finally, I decided to try it. What a sucker I was. The chicken is overcooked and so dry that even the sauce they dip it in could not disguise it. On top of that it is all small piece, dark meat that does not have a good flavor. The tiny salad was good but basic. All in all, the meal is 80% rice and 20% nice due to the nasty chicken. If you want to spend less than $8 go ahead but let me warn you that I just finished my meal not 10 minutes ago….I’m not full and already have a stomach ache.

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