This review is for the Williamsburg location of Fushimi (there are two others – one in Bay Ridge, and one in Staten Island). I was recently invited here for a complimentary press dinner.
First, a little bit about the joint: Fushimi is a Japanese and French fusion restaurant that focuses on traditional Japanese items but with a French twist. Why, you ask?
Chef Chul Kee Ko’s parents had a Japanese restaurant in Seoul, where he spent a lot of time absorbing traditional Japanese food culture and techniques. But as a young man the intrigue of other cuisines ended up drawing him to a culinary school in Vancouver to further study his passion for French food. There, he worked his way up through several French restaurants before deciding it was time to honor his roots with a renewed focus on Asian cuisines. After honing his craft at such places as Buddha Bar, and with chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the fusion of the two food cultures was only natural when Ko came to New York to strike out on his own with Fushimi.
The ambiance at Fushimi is trendy and luxurious, with a purpose to be part of the nightlife scene as the evening progresses. That’s not really my speed, but as long as I can see my food and the music isn’t too loud, it’s all good with me – and it wasn’t loud or dark. We were there until about 9:45pm and I never felt like it was getting too loud, dim, or clubby. I certainly don’t mind if a business wants to cater to a lounge crowd as the evening transforms into night: Actually it’s probably a good idea given the vibrant neighborhood it’s in. And there’s plenty of room for them to do this, between the massive front bar and lounge area, the spacious booth and street-side table seating, and the rear sushi bar.
There are some really interesting and modern fixtures and decorations throughout, with an amazing tunnel that leads back to an opulent bathroom area:
Their logo can be seen everywhere, even in large format on the side of the building. Brand recognition:
Chef Ko selects fresh ingredients daily and, as a result, the menu has a seasonal aspect to it. They offer a variety of dining options (lunch, brunch, dinner, early dinner, specials, parties, etc). Omakase means “I’ll leave it to you” in Japanese. Kaiseki is a multiple-course meal. We had Omakase Kaiseki, which you can figure out (if you are any degree sharper than a dull spoon) means that we left the contents of a multiple-course meal up to the chef. We simply sit back, relax, and enjoy the food without having to do much thinking about the menu. Here’s what we had:
We started with some drinks. I had an awesome cucumber passion martini that was going down like a refreshing sports drink. I could very easily slam these all night.
My wife had the sake sangria drink, which had bits of apple, strawberry, blueberry and orange within. It was like a boozy fruit salad:
Now on to the food:
First was an amuse bouche of portobello mushroom veloute and a crispy risotto ball. The ball was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It was tasty and flavorful, with a hint of cheese flavor that kept it moist. The soup was really creamy and smooth: think of the best cream of mushroom soup you’ve ever had, only without the bits of mushroom in it.
Next up was this kickass wooden tray of assorted appetizers. I loved this because I got to try a bunch of really nice items in one shot.
There was yuzu gelee with yellow tomato inside. A really nice pop of sweet and sour in one shot.
I usually don’t like eel very much, but this freshwater variety was light, mild and perfectly prepared. It really shined with some cured peppercorns on top. I think it was probably my favorite from the appetizer box.
A close second, though, was this thinly sliced scallop with wasabi and shaved radish. So clean and nicely textured.
This salad contains four different varieties of seaweed from Okinawa. Also very light, but brined with the flavor of the sea.
The next compartment was fresh raw sea urchin atop a jumbo shrimp tartare. This was really nice as well, and vied for second place neck and neck with the sliced scallop. The uni was top quality shit, and the shrimp was super smooth as well. Everything worked, and the nori slices gave it some flavor and seasoning.
Last of the appetizer box was the mixed veggies. Semi-raw string bean, carrot, and multi-colored cauliflower served with a sweet glaze. These were great and refreshing.
As you can tell by now the plating at this joint is immaculate and beautiful. By now I was really excited to see how the rest of the meal was going to look. I pretty much already knew it would taste amazing after that last course. But I didn’t realize HOW good until I took a bite of this Chilean sea bass.
This was honestly one of the best pieces of fish I’ve ever eaten, and probably our favorite dish of the evening. Lucky for everyone else, this is a very popular dish at the restaurant. I can see why. The top of the meat was crisp and flavorful, and the lower portion was so soft, flaky and moist. Perfect execution. The garnishes of roasted heirloom cherry tomato (sweet), pickled red onion (sour), and black sesame ponzu puree (bitter and savory) all made for a really complex and well-balanced dish that was ultimately the exact amount of simplicity as well. Chef Ko really knows how to feature his ingredients in a way that makes them stand out as special.
Next was tuna tartare with seaweed paste, onion creme fraiche and salmon roe. I’m not as big a fan of seaweed flavors as other folks, so I felt this dish would have been better without it. However I do appreciate the seasoning added by the paste. The tartare itself was great quality, same with the roe. I really liked the thick, sweet and savory ponzu sauce, along with the creme fraiche, so I wanted a bit more of that with each bite. The tartare was served with some crispy sliced bread as well.
This chawanmushi was amazing:
It was served in a covered bowl (beside a small vase of flowers) and then revealed table-side, so you get to smell that great waft of egg and mushroom in a nice blast of steam.
Look at the texture – like silken tofu, it was perfectly smooth and velvety. The shiitake mushroom flavor gave it a meaty quality as well. Earthy. Inside were some generous chunks of lobster and shrimp as well, which gave it a slight briney flavor. So good on a cold night.
As a beef connoisseur, I was impressed by this next course. Filet Mignon with braised orange carrot confit (cooked for three hours in olive oil and orange juice, and then seasoned with cumin), asparagus tips, fig, and crispy fried potatoes. There was a port reduction sauce on top of a small puree of carrot as well, and some black garlic on the potatoes. Even a thinly shaved curl of asparagus as garnish, and a roasted tomato.
At first glance you may think that there is too much going on here in this dish, but everything works really well together. Although this was a relatively sweet dish, the sweet of the carrot, port sauce and tomato are offset by the bitter of the cumin and garlic. The potato and asparagus gave it a nice texture of crunch, and the port wine sauce added some moisture and a little bit of pungent pop as well. As for the meat: cooked to a perfect medium rare with a peppered edge. Amazing.
Next was some assorted tempura, served beautifully in a bamboo basket with some fried noodles as garnish.
The basket included a macadamia-coconut crusted shrimp, green bean, shiso leaf and mixed veggie (squash/zucchini/sweet potato) items. The batter was light and crispy. No grease at all. There was a light soy-based dipping sauce and a small bowl of shaved salt for finishing. My favorite was the shrimp here – it was meaty and big, and expertly fried, unlike those monstrosity “Hawaiian shrimp” items you get at places like Applebee’s.
Next we had some very lightly flavored brown rice green tea from a teapot that looked like a winking tiger or bear face when looking from top view. What animal do you see?
Next was the sashimi course. This was a bit tough to photograph because of the glowing blue ice cube that was buried under the ice, but the plating was gorgeous. The fresh wasabi served with this was potent, and lots of little things placed on the ice were edible for balancing the flavors, like the kumquat to get some sweetness, or the shiso leaf for some green peppery punch, and of course the ginger for cleansing the palette.
There was a nicely dressed and fresh Kumomoto oyster sitting upon a little pillar made of ice, with scallions and sweet vinegar sauce.
There was this yellow tail belly, which was super smooth and delicious:
My favorite was the king salmon. So soft and flavorful. Beautiful color too:
And a cured tuna with seared edges, peach sauce and Maui onion, then topped with some peppery micro greens.
The last savory course of the evening was this delicious bowl of mixed seafood with a really tasty cajun lobster cream sauce. It reminded me of the food we had in New Orleans.
I feel like each item worked better individually, that the dish didn’t really come together as a whole. But the execution on every item was pretty much perfect, with the small exception of the lobster tail meat. The claw meat was fine, but the tail was just a bit overcooked. Everything else was insanely delicious though, from the sauce to the edible flowers to the sweet corn and even the crispy cheese chip.
Check out this fried, stuffed squash blossom, stuffed with lobster meat, cabbage and ginger. This reminded me of a southeast Asian style egg roll:
The scallop was something similar to what you’d find on a top rated Italian restaurant’s menu. It was buttery and perfect.
And the uni was smooth and fresh. I never thought I’d like it warm like this, but it was so delicate and good.
Perhaps if the ingredients were a bit more integrated, like in a soup or rice dish, this wouldn’t have felt disjointed. But that is a minor point about an otherwise amazing dish. I really loved it.
We tried two desserts. First was a caramel flan that was topped with grapefruit, pineapple and raspberry sorbet.
I felt like we didn’t need the fruit, but the sorbet seemed to work nicely with the creamy and silky flan.
This bowl of green tea ice cream with sweet red beans on top was delicious.
I think it may have been a bigger success with some chocolate crunchies or even candied coffee grinds instead of the lemon macaron, which sort of crumbled apart like cake when I bit into it. There was also some citrus from the blueberries and strawberries, but the yuzu gelee took it a little over the top for that flavor element. I know chocolate crunch, fresh strawberry and ice cream sounds a bit boring, but my taste buds were slightly confused by the sour elements. It certainly was interesting though, and the ice cream itself was texturally perfect.
I compliment Chef Ko for his inventive menu items. As you can tell, the plating at this place is really amazing; something to behold. Pictures don’t do the meal justice. You really have to just get over here and see/taste for yourself. There’s definitely something magical happening here at Fushimi. This is probably the best omakase kaiseki I’ve had – it easily beats out Megu, Ninja and other trendy, expensive places that I’ve been to.
475 Driggs Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211