My two friends and I decided to check out Matsugen during restaurant week. It's a place I've been curious about since it opened and I love Japanese food so I was happy when it was suggested.
Most places only offer a set menu for restaurant week and that's ok for me. Of course I would prefer if they offered their whole menu at a discount, then I would be more likely to come back. Anyway, the food at Matsugen was ok but nothing incredibly special. There are better places to go for AMAZING Japanese food at a much lower cost. Soba-Koh for example is one of the best kept secrets in NYC. Shusssssh don't tell anyone. Luckily it's a neighborhood place on 6th Street in the East Village that makes the best homemade soba and they offer a 5 course meal for $20 every night of the week before 7pm. It's not a large place but you can get a table for 6.. I'll take humble sweet service any day to inconsistent service at what should be a polished restaurant any day.
At Matsugen the staff tried to simultaneously serve us two at a time. That's fun and nice and everything but if you're going to do that at least make sure you're serving the correct person. (not all of us ordered the set menu). Then somewhere toward the end of the meal our waitress came over and said she was leaving. She informed us that her "friend" would take over. One of my friends looked at me and said her "friend" whose her friend? It was not clear to us whether there was even another wait person in the house. Possibly the management was sending staff home early. The least the waitress could have done was to introduce us to our new server because she never introduced us to her "friend". Not that it mattered, because she never left.
Okay, onto the food. We started off with fried soba, fun and tasty, and a bowl of edamame served family style. The second course was 2 pieces of tuna sashimi. Then we each received a plate with four bowls, spinach with a peanut type sauce, tofu skin, fried shrimp, and smoked uni with something jelly like. Next came the black cod served with vegetables. And finally the soba. I ordered the cold soba (that was silly since it was cold outside but....) Usually when I've ordered cold soba it comes with the sauce on the side so you dip it in, this cold soba dish was pre-mixed. I should double check and see if Matsugen is closed on Mondays because on Tuesday nothing tasted particularly fresh; everything had that just taken out of the walk-in feel to it.
So, if you've got to try it go ahead but don't go out of your way. It's way over priced for what you get and the ingredients. Though the set restaurant week meal was filling, you're better off going to Nobu Next Door or better yet, go to Soto in the East Village.
241 Church Street at Corner of Leonard
New York, NY 10013