Tag Archives: omakase

Gem

I took my wife to Gem to celebrate our 9yr anniversary. Gem is home to the young rising star fine dining chef Flynn McGarry. He’s only 19yrs old, which means The Cake Dealer and I have been married for nearly half of his life!

Anyway, the meal was a set price tasting menu, which ran about $330 (tax and tip included, but before drinks, which was an additional $78 for three each). Here’s how it went down:

Everyone at the 6pm seating was given a glass of champagne upon entering, which I thought was cool. My wife and I opted out of the $100 drink pairing and decided to try three cocktails throughout the meal instead. They don’t have high proof liquor yet, but they do a good job making cocktails with wine, champagne and liqueurs. I think they also serve beer as well.

Drink 1: Cynar, sweet vermouth, champagne.

Course 1: Local Shellfish/Seafood

This array of beautiful plates consisted of the folowing:

Nori crisp with clam, fava bean and preserved citrus.

This was my first bite. It had a nice fresh, briny sea flavor and qas a good way to wake up the taste buds.

Surf clam with grilled blueberries and rose.

Nice contrast of sweet and savory here. Tasty broth in the shell as well.

Caviar with sorrel dressing and green almond.

A really flavorful and herbacious spoonful of joy.

Scallop with grilled cucumber and salted plum.

This was the star of the course. Really nicely balanced and incredibly flavorful.

Course 2: Smoked Cod with Apple, Caraway and Horseradish

This was probably my favorite dish of the meal. The broth was awesome, and the contrast between sweet/tart apple and smoky/savory fish was perfectly executed.

Course 3: Grilled Asparagus Chawanmushi with Ham and Dried Fruits

This consisted of both shaved and cooked asparagus, an asparagus custard, ham broth, and what we guessed were figs and cherries. Very nice. I think this was my wife’s favorite dish.

Course 4: Grilled Squid with Morels, Blackberry, and Hazelnut Mole

This was both beautiful and delicious. I really loved the flavor combination with the hazelnut.

Drink 2: Cynar, sweet vermouth, sherry.

Course 5: Ramp and Calabrian Chili Lasagna

This was a perfect dish. I could eat an entire sheet pan of this shit. It has a light spice from the chilies, a great freshness from the ramps, and a good crisp texture from the baking process. The delicate use of cheese, pinenuts and a pesto based sauce made this really unique.

Course 6: Cabbage with Foie Gras and Chicken Vadouvan

I loved this course as well. I only wish there was more actual foie gras meat. But the cabbage was served two ways: crisped and cooked with a sort of chicken broth reduction. The rich foie fattiness and savory flavors were abundant in this dish. Excellent.

Course 7: Aged Beet, Creamed Beet Greens and Beet Bordelaise

This was a vegetarian play on steakhouse cuisine. The beet was dry aged, smoked, and seared. When it first came out I thought it was venison. The flavor was deep and hearty from the prep and cooking process, but it still held true to beet flavor. The best part was the creamed beet greens. A near exact replication of good creamed spinach. The bordelaise was a bit heavy handed. Half of that amount would have been fine.

Course 8: Pork Feast

This course consisted of the following dishes:

Pork neck with a sauce made from snails, mustard seed and smoked maple.

I liked this, especially when dragging the pork through as much sauce as possible. Perfectly cooked, and a rare cut of pork that you hardly ever see being utilized in fine dining.

Pork and chive sausage with broccoli.

This was delicious. The sausage meat was formed around a shaved stalk of broccoli before being cooked. It reminded me of some shrimp paste sausage items you sometimes see in asian cuisines.

Roasted sweet potato logs with black sesame.

These were a bit sweet, so I recommend eating them last even though our waitress said that there was no particular order to this course.

Pulled pork lettuce wraps.

The fresh herbs combined with the sweet meat made me think of asian cuisine here as well.

Drink 3: Rhubarb cooking liquids, St. Germain and champagne. Sorry, no pic. It was pink, bubbly and in a champagne glass.

Dessert: Rhubarb and Green Strawberry Galette, with Olive Oil and Thyme Mascarpone, and Vanilla Ice Cream with Blueberry Compote

The ice cream and mascarpone were meant as toppings.

This course really stole the show, and it finished the meal with a bang. We both loved it. The tart was so light and flakey, and all the flavors really paired well together.

That does it. Great spot for a date! Tip is included in the pricing here, and you pay in advance when you make a reservation. So you should only expect to pay up for drinks.

GEM
116 Forsyth St
New York, NY 10002

The Aviary

I took my wife to The Aviary as an early Christmas present. I booked the five course “Cocktails & Canapes” tasting menu dinner about two weeks in advance with a $100 deposit. The cost is $165pp, with an 18% gratuity added at the end (and tax, of course).

That’s crazy expensive, but this is truly a unique drinking and dining experience. I drank and ate things I never would have even thought about. In hindsight, five cocktails was aggressive (but awesome). I think when I go back, I will just order a la carte.

Here is the entire menu, but I will highlight what was selected for us below in the review:

AMUSE

The first thing to come out was an “amuse” drink – a small shot of tastiness that involved lime, rum, and mint.

A few moments later, our first round of cocktails came out with the first course of food.

COURSE ONE

Drinks: Micahlada (left – and yes, that is spelled correctly) and Zombie Panda (right)

Of these two, the Micahlada was my favorite. This is The Aviary’s take on a michelada (beer, spices and tomato juice), made with soy, coriander, Japanese whisky and Evil Twin beer. The Zombie Panda was tart from the lemon, lychee and pisco, and filled with frozen spheres of raspberry juice to sweeten it up.

Food: Pineapple Two Ways

This was a nice way to get the taste buds popping. That brown stuff at the bottom was a mole sauce. I liked it a lot, but my wife wasn’t too taken with it. The black mint garnish was tasty and went well with the watermelon radish and passion fruit.

COURSE TWO

Drinks: How Does Snoop Dog Use Lemongrass (left) and Mimosa (right)

The mimosa was nice because the fruit juice was frozen into ice cubes, so the drink becomes sweeter and more smooth as it sits.

The idea behind the Snoop drink is that Snoop Dogg ends everything with “-izzle” when he talks/raps, so there is a “swizzle” made out of lemongrass, which is used to mix the drink together:

Food: Kampachi Ceviche

This was bright, light and savory, pulling in southeast asian flavors from Thai green curry, heart of palm and coconut. I really enjoyed the briny broth and the coiled peels of red pepper for spice.

COURSE THREE

Drink: Heart of Stone

This was the best drink of the night, and you get about six glasses out of the container. That container is filled with bourbon, tea, Fresno chili, pistachio and peach. As it sits there, the flavors infuse deeply into the bourbon, so each time you refill the glass it tastes a little different. More spices come out, more sweetness too. Amazing.

Food: Pork Belly Curry

This dish was really good, but it could have been excellent with a crunch element. I think the iceberg lettuce discs were supposed to be that element, but they fell short just a bit. Perhaps a fried shrimp chip or crispy egg roll wrapper would do the trick. But the pork belly curry itself? Awesome. The banana and cashew are excellent compliments to the savory.

FROM THE CHEF

Chawanmushi

They’re experimenting with “all times of day” food here at The Aviary, so this is meant to be a breakfast item. It’s velvety smooth, and the smoked abalone within makes you think you’re eating bacon. The pops of flavor from the pickled huckleberries really brighten and balance this seafood porridge custard dish.

COURSE FOUR

Drink: Memphis Half Step

These glasses come to the table upside down on a charred piece of oak cask, filled with smoke. The aroma is awesome. This absinthe and rye cocktail is super smooth with a hint of sweetness.

Food: A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Rib Eye

Clearly my favorite food item of the night. The meat was buttery soft, and the grilled romaine with puffed rice was a great textural pop to go with it.  That yellow sauce is a yuzu mustard. Possibly the greatest mustard ever. 10/10. Wish I had 16 more ounces of this.

COURSE FIVE

Drink: Boom Goes The Dynamite

This was sweet and warm, almost like a port or brandy. It was made with rum, vanilla, violet and rooibos…  and dry ice for the smoke.

Food: Blueberry

Milk chocolate, violet and buttermilk sorbet make this dessert extra decadent. There were some more spheres of raspberry ice on the plate too, rounding out the meal with a call back to the very first cocktail (Zombie Panda). Really nice.

THE OFFICE

After dinner, our waiter Preston took us on a short tour of The Office, the speakeasy behind The Aviary bar staging area (which looks more like a kitchen than a bar).

Here’s what the inside of The Office looks like:

They have a cabinet filled with really old spirits that you can order as well. Super rare.

I will definitely be back to try this place, as well as the Aviary again. So many interesting sounding drinks and food items to try, like the “Science AF,” which looks like a chemistry set, or the “Wake & Bake,” which is a pillow filled with smoke and a drink made with orange, everything bagel, coffee and rye. I snapped a photo of it before they opened the bag filled with smoke:

THE AVIARY
Mandarin Oriental
80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Sushi By Bou

The concept of a quick and high quality meal is something in which all NYC denizens are interested. Sushi By Bou executes that concept in spades with its 30 minute omakase.

Some of you might already be familiar with the kiosk location of this joint down in Gansevoort Market. Same idea, but this is a dedicated space in a really fun location beneath the Sanctuary Hotel near Times Square.

There’s only room for about 7-10 people inside, but with fast 12 or 13 piece nigiri offerings, you won’t have to wait very long if they’re already full. Enjoy one of the awesome cocktails while you wait.

There’s some great showmanship too. Chef David is an outgoing guy, funny, and enjoys chatting it up with the diners. And in such a small setting, you may as well get to know the people you’re eating with for the next 30 minutes. The scenery is nice too. I enjoyed watching David torch some of the pieces of nigiri.

Here’s some video of him making the wagyuni (uni on top of seared wagyu):

There’s really no point in me reciting what each piece was and giving a review of them one by one. They were all fantastic. Don’t murder me if I mislabel any of these, but I think I did a pretty good job of identifying them all.

Hamachi

Tuna

Shrimp

Golden Snapper

Scallop

Wagyu

Uni

Salmon

Tuna Belly

Flipjack

Wagyuni

Roe

Eel

My favorites, obviously, involved wagyu, uni and roe, but I was also impressed with the scallop and skipjack pieces as well. I highly recommend checking this place out. You won’t be disappointed

SUSHI BY BOU
The Sanctuary Hotel
132 W 47th St
New York, NY 10036

The Crimson Sparrow

I first became acquainted with The Crimson Sparrow when I hung out with chef-owner John McCarthy at a mutual friend’s party.

We traded social media info and kept up with each others’ food exploits online. I always thought his dishes looked so beautiful and sounded so delicious, but I wasn’t sure when I’d ever get to try them – John being up in Hudson, NY and me being NYC-based.

Well, it turns out that I was scheduled to go on a farm tour in Ghent, NY the weekend before the 4th of July. Upon checking out the map of where Ghent was, and planning how I was going to get there, I realized I would be passing through Hudson. I decided to make a small weekend trip out of this farm tour, and to bring my wife along.

It was a no-brainer, at that point, that I’d be visiting John at The Crimson Sparrow. We first went in for the tasting menu, late in the evening after we finished up that farm tour in Ghent.

I have to say… Chef John is doing some really amazing things here. He’s clearly inspired by Japanese cuisine; its preparation, its focus, its simplicity, its artistry. And while he does highlight a lot of Japanese ingredients, he’s also drawing inspiration from his local environs in the Hudson valley as well, and even dropping some overt hints of French technique and Korean flavors as well.

John has been all over the globe honing his cuisine. He used to be an attorney, but then ditched that for the culinary arts. He’s French trained, but he spent a significant amount of time in Japan absorbing all he could. He even did a 5-year stint with Wiley DuFresne at WD-50 in NYC before deciding it was time to press out on his own.

The Crimson Sparrow offers an a la carte menu, but the big draw for me was this multi-course tasting menu, priced at just $95.

I was eager to dig in when we arrived, just like how I’m eager to write about the meal now. I hope your mouth doesn’t water too much, because after I finish describing the tasting menu, you’ll have to stay tuned and read on for the incredible restaurant tour and daytime snack bites that I experienced the following day.

Course 1: Maitake Mushroom

This was crispy yet meaty, and had great flavors from the black truffle and lemon. The only thing I was hoping for here was maybe a flake of sea salt as a finishing item – maybe some nori smoke on that salt too.

Course 2: Yukon Potato

This Yukon Gold potato was shredded and fried to a crisp, topped with smoked egg yolk, cheddar and sea salt. This was essentially a creamy, smokey nest of potato chips. Awesome!

Course 3: Cucumber Crab

This dish reminded me of a really fucking delicious version of something like tuna salad, or crab salad, if you will. Really light and refreshing. I found myself wishing this was offered as a lunch sandwich on some nice, lightly toasted white bread with shiso leaf. I could eat that every day.

Course 4: Dashi with Purple Potato

The photo doesn’t do this dish justice. It was gorgeous. Purple potato, dashi broth, bonito flakes, and a nori aoli mix together to form a really refreshing cold soup. There were hints of miso and mustard flavors coming through as well. Nicely executed.

Course 5: Enoki Mushrooms

I love enoki mushrooms. These were treated simply and allowed to shine for what they are; cooked with binchotan (a kind of Japanese charcoal). They were dressed with soy and topped with shredded nori and sesame seeds. Perfect, really juicy, snappy like noodles, but textured and satiating like a meat protein.

Course 6: Soft Shell Crab

I had a bad experience with soft shell crab when I was younger. The crab I had was too far along after molting, and some parts of the shell were no longer soft. They were like shrimp shells, and it grossed me out. But lately I’ve been dabbling more into soft shell crabs, because I know they can be really good. Here at The Crimson Sparrow they are excellent. It’s lightly batter-fried and served with a mizuna corn kimchi sauce. There was a nice citrus and pepper-spice pop to this dish. Extremely soft shell, great fry batter.

Course 7: Abalone with Pine Nuts

This dish isn’t on the regular tasting menu. Chef John brought it out special for us. I’m so grateful that he did, because this fucking thing was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in my entire life. I don’t say that lightly either.

Chef John first sous vides the abalone with pork belly and dashi. The pine nuts are pressure cooked with liquid from the bacon and abalone sous vide broth. Are you fucking kidding me? Then an abalone liver and squid ink emulsion is put on the bottom of the plate before serving (the black bits in the photo below).

This dish had such a nice buttery, savory, meaty flavor, and the pine nuts were like farro or barley in texture – like an “ancient grain” kind of starch, or beans. Truly amazing.

Course 8: Shrimp Dumplings

The broth/sauce here was killer: lemongrass, ginger and scallop. Really smooth and rich, and the dumplings were perfectly cooked, like excellent seafood ravioli.

Course 9: Hamachi

These slices of Hamachi exhibit simplicity and Chef John’s respect for the protein, while the cabbage, shiso, shiso oil, nori oil and yuzu broth demonstrates complexity of flavor and John’s extremely impressive skills as a chef. This dish represents exactly what he is doing here at The Crimson Sparrow: simplicity and complexity in the right balance.

Course 10: A5 Wagyu Picanha

Picanha is a Brazilian cut of beef, but it’s the same as “top sirloin cap” here in the states, only with the layer of fat left on that we Americans usually trim off.

This dish was not on the regular tasting menu either. The flavor was wild. It’s beef, but it tastes more like foie gras. It’s very rich in flavorful, oily fats. That large layer of fat can still be chewy, even on A5 Wagyu, but at times you can take it down because it gets so soft.

This beef hailed from the Miyazaki prefecture, which is known as one of the best in Japan for producing highly marbled beef. That little pile of magic dust on the side? Kalamata olive salt. So nice.

Course 11: Pork Belly Congee

This was really tasty. Congee is rice porridge. This one was made with porcini mushrooms and chili oil in the mix, aside from the delicious and tender pork belly. This is perfect “pick-me-up” comfort food right here.

Course 12: Aged Strip Loin

Obviously I loved this dish. It was served with ssamjang (Korean black bean sauce), dressed fresh soy beans and endive.

Here’s what the full plate looked like:

Palate Cleanser: Amazake

This amazake is a young sake made with fermented black and white rice and sweetened with ginger. It was creamy, sweet, slightly bubbly, and really delicious.

Dessert: “American Psycho” on a Plate (that’s my name for it)

This beautiful Jackson Pollock / Patrick Bateman mash-up of plating artistry is a sponge cake with blue- rasp- and mul- berries. There were notes of citrus or yuzu, and even avocado cream in the anglaise. Those beautiful red splatters were done with beet sauce.

Okay so that covers the tasting menu. The next day we came back when John was a little less busy to hang out with him a bit. He gave us a cool tour of the restaurant and kitchen.

Here’s the outside:

The bar is outfitted with some cool things that John salvaged from the property when he first purchased it. Part of the property used to be an old Packard auto shop, and another part was a bakery.

The main dining room is gorgeous. It’s outfitted with some antiques that John either found on the property (like the lamps), or items for which he bartered with local antique shop owners to obtain (like the wine cart).

This part of the property was actually a bakery at one point, and this room was the inside of the massive oven. The table was custom made to accommodate the 9 inch floor slope from one end of the room to the other.

A more private room for larger parties is also available to customers.

The kitchen is housed in the space where Packard used to wash and detail their cars. Those windows you see on the right are massive, and there’s a strip of cool bar stool seats where diners can sit and watch all the kitchen action.

John also showed me the Wagyu strip loin that he’s aging in the walk-in. I think this hunk of deliciousness has been going for over 100 days.

John has a rooftop herb garden as well.

That day we also tried some light snacks in the outdoor garden seating area – a gorgeous space.

This is a pork bun. Really nice flavors, and that pork was stewed to perfection.

These soy beans are similar to the beans on the tasting menu that came with the aged beef dish, but served on a giant shrimp chip.

Also, they serve crisp Orion beer for just $5. Great to sip while enjoying a sunny day on the patio.

 

I think that about does it. You guys need to check this place out if you’re ever in the area. I’m dead serious when I tell you that this was the best tasting menu omakase style meal I’ve ever had, and that abalone dish… Holy shit man. Ask for it when you go.

THE CRIMSON SPARROW
746 Warren St
Hudson, NY 12534

Ichiban Nom Nom

I had the opportunity to head to Chef Joe Conti’s test kitchen prior to the open of his yet-to-be-named Japanese omakase restaurant downtown. The great thing about this meal is that I was able to taste a lot of different cuts of A5 Wagyu beef. The highest marbling score there is. Unreal. Since there were a bunch of courses, I’ll get right down to business.

Torched mackerel with pickled daikon.

Fried river fish, uni and river crab.

Giant shrimp/prawn carabineros. Simply seasoned with salt, but their insides cook into a naturally spicy and fatty butter-like substance that will provide you with wet food dreams for the rest of your life. It coats your tongue like a rich prosciutto almost. For real, this is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my whole fucking life. They get to about a third of a pound each in weight, too, so they’re substantial. Favorite part of the meal – even better than the beef!

Wagyu skirt steak (8/10) and pork skirt steak. Amazing. Here, the pork out shined the beef just because it was so unique to see this cut here in the states. I want more of it!

Wagyu sirloin (9/10), tenderloin (10/10) and rib cap (9/10). All amazing, but my favorite, oddly, was the tenderloin. It was so buttery soft and tender that it would be impossible to compare it to anything else that came across our plates.

Here’s the tenderloin up close:

Italian panko Parmesan breadcrumb “gyu katsu,” aka deep fried beef strip loin. Amazing. 8/10.

Eel with shiso.

Cold udon noodles.

Ice cream: chocolate, green tea with chocolate chips, and salted caramel. Still some refining to be done here, but over all a great closer plate.

I can’t wait until this spot officially opens. I think it’ll be in the West 4th Street and 8th Avenue area. Keep an eye out! They’re already booked solid for the first few months after they open.

UPDATE: 1/15/18

Chef Joe’s place is called Shuraku, located in the west village. They opened to great success, and I finally got around to bringing my wife there to try the great food. The meal was excellent, and my wife loved her birthday dinner. Here’s what we had:

During the course of the meal we tried three different sakes. The one pictured with the bottle was my favorite, aged for 17 years in barrels. It had a mild smooth scotch flavor to it.

Course 1: tofu.

Course 2: A5 wagyu beef sushi.

Course 3: oyster and king crab.

Course 4: yakitori

Course 5: fish cake with dashi

Course 6: beef and seafood grill.

Course 7: udon with roe.

Course 8: yuzu cheesecake and strawberry yogurt ice cream, with green tea.

SHURAKU JAPANESE GRILL
47 8th Ave
New York, NY 10014

Secchu Yokota

My wife’s birthday is just around the corner, and her friends were taking her to dinner here to celebrate. When one of them had to cancel last minute, I filled in to avoid the $50 charge on the credit card for a missed seating.

This joint only has eight seats and two seatings per night (6:00pm and 8:30pm), so that’s why they charge your card if you bail on a seat. Harsh, but understandable. They have to fill up to make money.

Anyway, this was a long and tasty meal, consisting mostly of Japanese tempura. It wasn’t the prettiest food for photos, but it certainly was yummy!

Here’s what we had – and keep in mind I’m just going to list the dishes and then quickly blab about the items that really stood out.

Red snapper broth with mushrooms.

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Red snapper sashimi: this was really delicate and clean, and it went perfectly with the shio-bonito ponzu and wasabi salt, which were provided for dipping.

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They also gave us pickled daikon and a bamboo charcoal salt as well, which was equally excellent, and apparently helpful in digestion due to the charcoal.

Berkshire pork pate. Very nice, and notably French!

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Now we are getting into the tempura. The fryer oil they use is a blend of sesame oil and cotton seed oil, which has a very high smoking point, great for super crispy batters and fast frying.

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Crispy shrimp shell. Yes – the exoskeleton! I joked and said that we ate crispy fried xenomorph face-hugger exoskeleton (that’s an Alien reference if you’re unaware).

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Shrimp body.

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Okra: really flavorful and fresh. The tempura batter was almost like a second skin on the veggie, just crispy.

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Yellow pepper.

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Mackerel.

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Eggplant.

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Lotus root.

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Hokkaido squid. In fact everything here is actually FROM Japan.

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Sweet potato.

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Hokkaido scallops: These were almost raw, and absolutely delicious. Just the outside was cooked from the closeness of the flesh to the hot oil. My favorite bite of the night.

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Eel.

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Uni (sea urchin) wrapped in nori (seaweed) paper: very creamy. If uni is your thing, then this is the place to get it. I’m still a hit or miss guy when it comes to uni. I think I like it best when served cold (like revenge), with no seaweed paper.

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To finish the savory courses off, you get a choice between the following two items:

(1) Rice with red snapper bits and a hearty miso/mushroom soup.

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(I didn’t shoot the soup)

(2) Green tea soba noodles with eel.

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This was so fucking beautiful, and was probably my second favorite dish of the night. It came with a dipping sauce as well (I didn’t shoot that but I did take another photo of the noodles).

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Dessert was a raspberry sorbet with a sesame crisp, and a yuzu creme brulee. Both were simple but excellent.

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Lastly, I apologize for the poor photos. I didn’t bother to color correct when I got home. I mainly just focused my photo editing efforts on that beautiful soba dish because I knew I was going to post it on Instagram.

All in, this was a great meal, albeit a bit pricey. The uni and eel tempura items were add-ons that really bumped up the cost. Also drinks: They’re always bill killers. But I definitely recommend giving this place a shot. There aren’t too many Japanese joints doing real deal tempura omakase in this low price range ($65/pp to start).

SECCHU YOKOTA
199 East 3rd Street
1st Floor, New York, NY 10009

Ozoku Sushi & Sashimi Bar

The Royalton Hotel has a sushi and sashimi bar up front in the lobby called Ozoku. My wife grabbed a great flash deal for the omakase for two people.

First off, this was a great hickory smoked old fashioned:

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Okay so the food. The first course was the veggies. Soy beans and sesame-kimchi brussels sprouts.

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Next up was a pair of sashimi plates. One was tuna with pickled beets, and the other was hamachi.

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Nigiri was next. A fatty salmon and some more hamachi.

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Then a bowl of soup, which was really awkward to share among two people, but we managed. This was a coconut curry broth with mussels and fingerling potatoes.

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Just when we thought the meal might be over, we got two more plates of sushi rolls. One was tuna, the other was scallop and shrimp.

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And then, finally, after we were pretty much stuffed, we received this plate of smoked porgie.

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Not a bad spread of food! However, the lounge area where you eat is a bit awkward because you have to lean down to the table the entire time, and your back will start to ache. Since the hotel is super sexy and chic, the set up is more like a lounge than a restaurant.

OZOKU SUSHI & SASHIMI BAR
44 W 44th St
New York, NY 10036

Fushimi

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.

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There are some really interesting and modern fixtures and decorations throughout, with an amazing tunnel that leads back to an opulent bathroom area:

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Their logo can be seen everywhere, even in large format on the side of the building. Brand recognition:

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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:

fushimi menu

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.

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My wife had the sake sangria drink, which had bits of apple, strawberry, blueberry and orange within. It was like a boozy fruit salad:

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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.

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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.

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There was yuzu gelee with yellow tomato inside. A really nice pop of sweet and sour in one shot.

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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.

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A close second, though, was this thinly sliced scallop with wasabi and shaved radish. So clean and nicely textured.

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This salad contains four different varieties of seaweed from Okinawa. Also very light, but brined with the flavor of the sea.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This chawanmushi was amazing:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Next was some assorted tempura, served beautifully in a bamboo basket with some fried noodles as garnish.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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There was this yellow tail belly, which was super smooth and delicious:

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My favorite was the king salmon. So soft and flavorful. Beautiful color too:

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And a cured tuna with seared edges, peach sauce and Maui onion, then topped with some peppery micro greens.

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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.

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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:

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The scallop was something similar to what you’d find on a top rated Italian restaurant’s menu. It was buttery and perfect.

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And the uni was smooth and fresh. I never thought I’d like it warm like this, but it was so delicate and good.

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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.

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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.

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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.

FUSHIMI
475 Driggs Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Megu

NOTE: This review is for the old location in Tribeca.

My bargain hunter wife got a crazy deal through Gilt City for the Omakase tasting menu at Megu, and on top of the amazing deal, she had some coupons to use on Gilt City, which made this meal a real steal (How does that feel? Feels like a deal.)

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ONE
So this seven (and a half) course meal began with a really beautiful, delicate, and palette-opening salmon tartare, topped with caviar. Holy shit the rhyming is bizarre. Have I gone too far?

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TWO
Next up was grilled asparagus on a stick, covered in a crispy semi-fried coating that was a little too thick. Nice, but a dipping sauce would have been pretty sick.

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THREE
After that bowlshit came some shit in a bowl: sebring to be exact, atop an oriental salad of shredded veggies, assorted nuts, and herbs. The waiter drizzled some hot grape seed oil over the fish to give it a quick sear, and then deftly placed two goji berries on top, there and here. Mine looked like a ghost, or a KKK member; either way it was something to fear.

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FOUR
Then we have a nice little trio of appetizers. Softshell crab with a house made tartar sauce. I usually hate soft shell crab, because usually the shell is not truly soft, because crabs are constantly molting at different rates across different parts of their body, because they are inconsiderate assholes (the crabby fucks that they are). This one, however, was nice. No choking on flakes of chitinous shell.

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Along with this was some grilled veg, consisting of tomato, shishito pepper, and shitake mushroom.

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Last was a chunk of miso black cod. Fucking delicious.

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FIVE
After that came the mutherfucking sushi. A full spicy tuna roll (too much, in my opinion: three pieces would have been fine instead of six), along with three pieces of sushi: tuna, live octopus, and yellowtail. Everything was good except the octopus. it was too chewy; difficult to get down.

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FIVE AND A HALF
Here comes that 0.5 course: liquid. First beer, and then miso soup. The soup was very fragrant and aromatic, but just average in terms of flavor. The good thing is that it was not thin or light, yet not overly salty or too robust.

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SIX
The good shit. I had the Kobe steak, which was a sirloin cut. It was cooked perfectly to medium rare, and presented on a hot stone for the extra earthy sear. The waiter poured a little cognac across it for showmanship. Check that shit out below:

Here’s a pair of close up shots of the meat. It came with some crispy garlic chips. I was hoping for a nice thick core of onion too, but whatever. Who can complain with meat of this quality?

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My wife had the grilled salmon, which came with some various mushrooms, squash, and veggie items. This was nicely cooked. Juicy but a good crust, flavorful but delicate, topped with chives.

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SEVEN
Last was the dessert plate, which had green tea cake, vanilla ice cream with mango sorbet, chocolate truffles, mixed fruit compote with yuzu, and yuzu creme brulee. All were pretty good here, but I slurped at the leftover yuzu compote liquids like a baby goat at the teet. So, so sweet. Tingles from my head down to my feet. And now my rhymes are complete, because it’s getting late, and I’m fucking beat.

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BUT WAIT!!! There’s more. I almost forgot the fucking decor. Take a look, you little foodie whores:

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MEGU
355 W 16th St
New York, NY 10011