Tag Archives: salmon

Le Bernardin

I took my wife to Le Berdardin for her birthday this year.

First, let me say that they make some great cocktails here. We tried four altogether. They averaged around $20 each.

The bread service here is spectacular. Almost as good as my favorite spot for pre-dinner bread, Marea.

The amuse of raw seafood preparations was probably my favorite part of the meal, and it wasn’t even one of the seven tasting menu courses.

And this kampachi crudo with dried olives was amazing. So flavorful yet so simple.

The crab cake of peekytoe and dungeoness with lobster shell broth was really nice. This place knows what they’re doing around seafood.

The halibut with dashi and radish was nice…

But the Faroe Islands salmon with mushroom and black truffle sauce stole the show in terms of fish filet dishes here.

Our next entree was a surf and turf of wahu (Hawaiian white tuna) and wagyu. The portion was very small, but I didn’t mind so much at course five.

We had a ton of desserts here. First was the coconut sorbet with coconut meringue.

Then a chocolate gelato and chocolate cake thing with gold leaf and meringue sticks.

Then a complimentary chocolate mousse cake thing for my wife’s birthday, of course with more gold leaf.

And then petit fours.

Honestly, I would have preferred more amuse crudos from the start of the meal over this sweet shit. But everything was nice nonetheless.

The bill was big, but luckily I had a $150 gift certificate to use from a very generous friend of mine.

I probably wouldn’t go back, but I would definitely recommend this place for someone who is looking for an impressive night out with their spouse.

LE BERNARDIN
155 W 51st St
New York, NY 10019

Noodle Pudding

I stopped in this joint with some friends for a quick bite to eat. I was excited to see lupini beans on the bar menu. For $5 I thought we were going to get a buttload of them, but we only got a few dozen at most.

We tried another bar snack, olives. These were great, but pricey:

Calamarata pasta. This was nice, but not the biggest portion.

Salmon with escarole. I love escarole. This was a nice dish. At $24 it felt a little small, but I think the portion is definitely right for those who are looking to watch their calories.

They have some strange rules at this place, like no birthday singing unless someone is under 10 or over 90. Also this really strange rule about fresh pork and hot weather?

Maybe it has something to do with the meat sweats.

NOODLE PUDDING
38 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

David Burke at Bloomingdale’s

NOTE: THIS PLACE IS CLOSED

My wife picked up a Gilt City deal for David Burke’s joint at Bloomingdale’s. I noticed some nice looking sandwiches, a decent looking burger, and a hanger steak on the menu, so I was psyched to try it out.

Unfortunately, the special menu for the flash deal eliminated all of the things I was interested in trying: pastrami sandwich, French dip, burger, and hanger steak frites. But not to worry! This deal actually supplied us with a LOT of food, and, contrary to out last experience with a Burke joint (Fabrick), the food here was really good.

They start you with warm cheddar popovers. I can eat a basket full of them. Very tasty.

I ordered the grilled tofu Thai peanut salad to start (please don’t kill me). It was actually really good! It had an acidic pop to it from the various citrus and fish sauce additives, and good texture from the jicama and cabbage slaw.

My wife had the tomato soup, which was velvety smooth, topped with a Peter North -like splash of basil oil, and accompanied by a miniature grilled cheese sandwich.

For my entree, I had the grilled salmon.

It was cooked to a nice medium temperature, and it sat on a bed of slaw that was similar to my starter salad, only heavier on the slaw component as opposed to the lettuce. It also had a pop of cumin in it that altered the flavor profile a bit. The salmon skin had a great crisp to it as well.

My wife had chicken Milanese; breaded and fried tender chicken cutlet, topped with arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese, and garnished with grape tomatoes and lemon wedges.

There was a nice tomato-based sauce underneath too, but just the right amount so that nothing got soggy or smothered.

For dessert, I had this chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. I usually don’t go for chocolate cakes, but this was delicious.

My wife had the sorbet with fresh fruit. Really nice, actually, when you mixed both desserts together for a bite.

If you can still find this deal online, I recommend it. While they severely limit the menu on you, what you do get is good quality and a lot of it. You’l leave full, and with a feeling that you got a good deal.

DAVID BURKE AT BLOOMINGDALES
1000 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022

Bustan

Bustan means “garden” or “orchard” in Hebrew, Arabic and ancient Aramaic. The Upper West Side restaurant named as such boasts a pan-Mediterranean menu that features dishes from the shores of Southern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, which are home to those languages. Bustan stands out in New York City’s sea of Mediterranean restaurants with its multicultural approach to food and drink, where diners are encouraged to explore and ask questions about their diverse menu.

My wife and I came in for Sunday brunch at noon and the place was already almost full. But the restaurant is spacious, so you won’t have to throw elbows just to cut your food. You may want to make a reservation, though, because the people who live in this neighborhood obviously know how good the food is at this joint.

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We started with a pair of bloody marys that had Mediterranean spiced rims.

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We enjoyed these. They had the right amount of heat, and the mix was a nice, thick, tomato blend that they must have made in-house, because it was really fresh.

Since I’m on drinks, I may as well mention that they have a really interesting and unique cocktail menu that further highlights Mediterranean flavors. And the bar is a great place to sit and eat as well. There’s a beautiful wide grey marble topper and plenty of seating. They also have a pretty incredible whisky selection as well.

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We snacked on some homemade focaccia bread before our entrees came out. This was spiced with the same stuff from the bloody mary rims, along with some toasted and minced rosemary. Really delicious! And its served warm, with a bowl of olives.

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We also tried these burekahs, which are spiraled rolls of doughy pastry style bread with feta and minced kalamata olives inside. Super tasty!

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I ordered the green shakshouka for my entree.

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Shakshouka is a baked egg dish from the region, often made with tomatoes. This green version featured creamed spinach, artichoke, fior di latte and white truffle oil. It also comes with homemade pita.

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I was half expecting something heavy and salty, given the cheese and cream elements, but this was light and mild. I really loved it, and the addition of truffle oil really brought a wonderful earthiness to the dish. All you people looking for a healthy protein boost, this is the way to go! There had to be about four or five eggs in this baby. You get a lot of satisfying food for your money with this dish ($18).

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My wife went with the potato pancakes entree. A large white plate is covered with one huge, crispy potato pancake, and then topped with two eggs (cooked any style you’d like) and three rolls of really high quality smoked salmon.

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The best way to enjoy this dish is to eat a little bit of everything with each bite, so that the saltiness from the cured salmon seasons the pancake and egg with a its natural brine.

This dish also comes with labaneh, which is a thick, tart, creamy, yogurt-like cheese that almost mimics the cream cheese that us NYC locals might eat with lox or smoked/cured salmon. It is a perfect pairing for this dish.

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But one other savory item that’s a must try here is the hummus.

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This stuff has won awards. In fact, I might as well mention Bustan’s overall awards for best restaurant in the upper west side (2014) and diner’s choice top 100 neighborhood gems in America (2015). This place is no joke.

Anyway, this hummus is super creamy, and the addition of tahini sesame paste gives it a massive flavor boost. I actually recommend getting this as an app for the table to share before diving into those delicious entrees.

But you absolutely MUST save room for dessert, because this next thing is my favorite ice cream dessert that I’ve ever had.

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It’s two scoops of vanilla gelato on a bed of candied pistachio nuts, dates and crisped rice, which is then topped with shaved halvah!

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It’s called the Turkish sundae, and I get really excited when I see halvah used in anything, since I always loved eating it as a kid.

Clearly I loved that dessert, but I’ll be back in very soon to try the sticky toffee pudding, which consists of dates, walnuts, banana and tiramisu gelato. In fact several items on their dessert menu are really interesting, as are the entrees. Bustan is truly breaking the mold for Mediterranean fare and offering up lots of dishes that celebrate the entire region’s diverse food culture. Get up here ASAP and eat!

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review; all opinions expressed are my own.

BUSTAN
487 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

Bocca

For less than $79, my wife and I scored this Groupon deal for Bocca, which gave us $120 to spend. In reality we probably paid about $68 for the Groupon, since we almost never buy them unless there is an additional discount code.

Anyway this Italian joint had some pretty interesting items on the menu. Here’s what we ordered:

Salmon Crudo

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This shit was really fresh and clean. It was a great way to start this incredible meal.

Grilled Octopus Crostini with Chorizo, Kalamata Olives and Chic Peas

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The octopus was perfectly cooked, and when I took a bite with a little bit of everything together, the flavors really exploded. Such an awesome Mediterranean dish.

Strozzapreti with Nduja

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This was amazing. If you don’t know what nduja is, its a spicy, fatty and spreadable sausage product that lots of people eat with bread in southern Italy. Here, however, the geniuses rendered it down  with tomatoes into a  decadent sauce. Highly recommended.

Cacio e Pepe (Spaghetti alla Chitarra in Pepper and Cheese Sauce)

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This was prepared table-side, and was absolutely delicious.

It’s a really simple dish, but sometimes that’s all you need for a winning food item. It’s no wonder this dish is all the rage in NYC.

Hanger Steak with Mushrooms

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This fucker was awesome. Seriously. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the selection of wild mushrooms (I think Hen of the Woods and Porcini) really brought out the earthy flavors of the beef, which happened to be black angus from Creekstone Farm. 9/10.

Another thing worth mentioning is this great beer they serve.

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This is right in my wheelhouse, since it’s an unfiltered, super bubbly Belgian farmhouse wheat beer.

BOCCA
39E 19th Street
New York, NY, 10003

Jin Ramen (UWS)

My wife and I popped in here for a Sunday lunch when the line for Jacob’s Pickles was wrapped down Amsterdam and we had absolutely zero desire to wait it out. We’d been to the Harlem Jin location in the past and liked it, so we knew we’d most likely enjoy the UWS location as well.

I was in the mood for cold ramen, since it was pretty hot outside. They offered two styles, but I ended up going with a nice cold salmon and roe soba noodle dish instead.

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This shit was delicious, and so beautiful.

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Top quality sushi grade salmon, tasty, briny roe (I think it was trout roe as opposed to salmon roe), and fresh microgreens topped the perfectly cooked cold soba noodles. It came with a cup of sauce to either dip or pour on top, as well as a mixed greens side salad.

My wife went with a Kakuni ramen dish, which featured Filipino style braised pork belly and a poached egg.

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That’s a huge block of pork belly! The broth was tasty without being too salty, which was nice even on a hot day (I tasted some after it had cooled down a bit). The egg was perfectly poached and the noodles were perfectly cooked.

We also tried some refreshing Japanese cocktails and pork buns.

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The pork buns were excellent, with the exception that I dislike scallions that are shredded long ways instead of sliced on the bias. I found myself picking them off the bun.

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Note the scallions on my wife’s Kakuni ramen were sliced the way that I prefer.

JIN RAMEN (UWS)
462 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024

Koshe Poke

Koshe Poke is a Kosher poke joint inside Eden Wok on East 34th Street. Poke has skyrocketed in popularity here in NYC. We went from no poke restaurants to about 10 or more, seemingly overnight.

For the uninitiated, poke is essentially chopped up raw, dressed fish with flavorful toppings. It’s actually a Hawaiian dish, so many of the flavors and toppings are Asian/Japanese inspired, like sesame oil, soy sauce and green onions.

In many ways it’s similar to tartare preparations of salmon and tuna, only it is generally cut into larger pieces and dressed with more items. Here in NYC, it is more like a “sushi salad,” since often times the poke is thrown into a bowl with rice, quinoa or greens. It’s even showing up in burrito form now, too.

In any case, I’ve had poke a few times before the craze finally made it to NYC. Back in the mid/late 90’s, my sister lived in Hawaii for a stretch of about four years. That’s really when I first became aware of the dish, just from talking with her and having the topic of food come up on occasion.

My experience with poke in Hawaii was a mediocre one. The dish I tried contained ahi that was a bit stringy in spots, so I was a little bummed out. In fairness, I probably should have tried it in more places when I was there.

Koshe Poke is the first NYC poke joint that I’ve tried since the trend took hold. I liked it. The fish tasted fresh and was good quality, and the toppings were all flavorful and highly varied.

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The concept is simple, and highly customizable. You start with a choice of either brown rice, white rice, greens or a burrito as the “base” of your poke meal. While this is not in keeping with the traditional ways of Hawaii, it makes the poke more like a full meal rather than a side or salad item.

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Then you choose your protein from among items like tuna, salmon, and yellow tail. You can get them grilled too if you want, and you can add additional proteins for just $2.

After, you can choose up to six add-ins from a selection of 13, one sauce, four toppings, and a choice of two crispy items from a selection of 12. You get all of this for just $12, which is a great deal.

I went with tuna and salmon on white rice, with carrot, cucumber, avocado, sweet corn, scallion and hearts of palm. I chose the Hawaiian salt sauce, topped it with wasabi, and added sesame seeds and dry noodles as my crispy elements.

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I was happy with this bowl, and kept referring to it as a “sushi salad.”

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One suggestion I have is that they should have the option to get the rice served cold, that way the cold items like raw fish stay chilled and don’t warm up in the bowl from the warm rice. The main issue with that, though, is that cold rice tends to clump together and get sticky, which could be problematic. In any case, this is a good riff on poke, and I’m glad to see the item establishing a solid presence in NYC.

KOSHE POKE (INSIDE EDEN WOK)
43 E 34th St
New York, NY 10016

Bangkok Cuisine

Is it just me, or is Thai food in NYC starting to all blend together into an incoherent, blurry amalgam of “sweet coconut this,” or “spicy curry that?” I live right near what I like to call “Thai Town,” a strip of dozens of Thai restaurants that run up 9th avenue from the upper 30’s to the upper 50’s in Hell’s Kitchen. One or two joints stand out there as being different and good, but largely it’s all the same Americanized, overly sweet, unbalanced bullshit but with a different name slapped on the facade outside. The interiors even start to look and feel the same. Dim lighting, bamboo everywhere, and a subtle yet obnoxious house music beat relentlessly thumping in the back of your brain for the entirety of the meal. I know you’ve experienced this, and no matter how much X you drop beforehand, it just won’t work while you’re trying to fucking eat. Is this the perception of Thai culture and cuisine that we have here in America, to which Thai restaurants feel they must cater in order to draw in customers? If so, we need to change it, ASAP.

Stepping into Bangkok Cuisine on the upper east side was a refreshing change from that cookie-cutter Thai experience.

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The space is bright, elegant and classy, with a gorgeous emerald Buddha as the centerpiece and focal point of the restaurant. It almost has a museum-esque quality to it, with high luxury style marble under foot and ornate chandeliers over head.

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Hap, son of the chef and owner, invited me in for a press meal. He runs the joint and takes pride in the decor choices he made when designing the restaurant a year ago. He did a great job. I knew just from the decor alone that I was about to get into something very different and unique here when it came to the actual food.

This place is a perfect spot for a date, but it also has appeal to everyday neighborhood diners who want a great meal in a beautiful setting. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are very fair as well. During lunch hours (even on weekends) you can score a three course meal for just $9 or $10. That’s pretty much unheard of these days.

The bar is nice too, with cocktails inspired by Thai spice and herb flavors, and fresh exotic fruits.

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Okay so let me get to the food. Hap suggested we try some of their best and most popular items, to get a good feel for his dad’s cooking style and the diversity of the menu.

First were the chicken lettuce wraps, with minced curried chicken, carrots, celery, shredded beet and cashews.

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These were super light and healthy; a great way to start the meal without going heavy. The curried chicken was a nice change-up from what I usually expect in a lettuce wrap. It was almost like a Thai or Indian taco, if you will. The beets added a nice contrast of color with that pop of red, and the iceberg lettuce added a great textural element of crunch to the tender minced chicken.

Next were the BBQ pork skewers. These were my absolute favorite of the starters.

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They were sweet, spicy, sticky and super tender. The spice/sweet balance struck here was right on the money, and the sticky and tangy sauce on top really fueled my addiction to these. With fresh cut herbs sprinkled over the top of these warm skewers, the air all around the table was filled with some incredible, mouth watering aromas. When you come here, these are absolutely a must-order.

Hap also brought out a small sample size of two other popular apps for us. First was the Thai crepe, a thin, wide, flat, homemade steamed rice noodle wrapped around chicken, shallots and peanuts.

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This is similar in form to Vietnamese banh cuon, which my wife and I love. The flavors here are a bit different though, as they are sweet rather than tangy, and more peanut-forward than the Vietnamese dish. These are nice and light, and very healthy.

The second sampler app was the five-star Thai dumplings. These may look like Chinese dumplings, but they taste very different.

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They have Thai-spiced chicken and shrimp inside, and are served with a sesame and soy dipping sauce.

We tried three entrees from the special chef’s tasting portion of the menu, all at Hap’s suggestion and based on popularity and his personal preferences.

The first was this stuffed salmon with panang curry.

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First off, this was absolutely stunning to look at.  It’s pan-roasted salmon with crab meat and shrimp stuffing, green beans, bok choy, peppers, carrots and onions in a thick and rich panang curry sauce. The sauce here, again, displays Bangkok Cuisine’s amazing ability to properly balance sweet and spicy. One could easily just spoon the curry up and eat it like a thick soup. And the salmon itself was cooked to perfection, with what was essentially a really good shrimp and crab cake added in the mix. It’s no wonder that this is one of their signature and most popular dishes. Absolutely delicious.

Our second entree was volcano duck.

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This is a crispy, boneless half duck served atop tempura carrots and celery, and topped with a fluffy egg and homemade chili flake sauce (pad pong karee). Just to beautify the plate even more, there are a pair of fried lotus root slices on top. The dish consists of traditional Thai ingredients that have been treated in non-traditional ways. For example, the duck is prepped and cooked in a notably French style, with butter under the skin to get a certain level of crisp before finishing, as opposed to just frying the fucker to holy hell. I haven’t seen or tasted anything like it here in the city. The duck itself was amazing. Tender, flavorful and with super crispy skin. And the fluffy egg on top lent a flavorful soft texture to offset the crisp of the duck.

The final entree was a true test of Thai food mettle: Pad Thai.

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But this is no ordinary Pad Thai. This is seafood tom yum inspired Pad Thai. The sautéed rice noodles are adorned with shrimp, squid, scallops, mussels, eggs, peanuts, carrots, bell peppers, scallions and bean sprouts, all deftly tossed with just the right coating of a hot and sour lemongrass “tom yum soup” flavored sauce. Again; a very unique take on a classic Thai dish. It reminded me of the way this noodle dish my wife and I had in Hoi An, Vietnam captured the characteristic flavors of pho in a sauce for a non-soupy noodle dish.

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Each bite of seafood was cooked just right. All tender, and nothing overcooked, whatsoever. What really got me, though, was the perfectly dressed noodles. Lots of times Pad Thai comes to you all watery and soupy. I hate that! This had just the right amount of sauce coating the noodles, and that helped make the noodles slightly sticky, so that all the spices and accompaniments clung to the noodles just so. This made it easy to pick up with chopsticks and stuff down my throat. If Pad Thai is your go-to dish when eating Thai, you won’t be disappointed with this. It brilliantly marries two very popular Thai dishes (Pad Thai and Tom Yum), executed perfectly.

Unfortunately at this point we were too full for dessert. But I will definitely be back to try the whole fried snapper, lamb chops and drunken noodles, for sure. They looked great on the menu.

I highly recommend this place, and even if you’re not regularly spending time on Manhattan’s upper east side, it’s certainly worth a trip up to the neighborhood.

BANGKOK CUISINE
1586 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Iroha

UPDATE: This place is closed!

Big Steak is king in the vast wasteland of Manhattan’s midtown “Bankville,” but Japanese cuisine is a strong and worthy adversary that’s rapidly encroaching on its territory (especially for lunch).

My wife and I stopped into one such Japanese joint, Iroha, for a quick dinner bite at the bar before seeing a Broadway show, and we were both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, the plating presentation and the price.

First off, there is a coupon for a free mug of beer online that you can use from 5-7pm. That was perfect for us, since our show was at 7pm.

We ordered a bunch of shit, and we could have kept going, because everything looked fucking awesome.

First was this amazing glass cup of rawness. Uni, salmon, salmon roe, tuna, yellow tail and avocado. Not only was it beautiful, but it was absolutely devourable. Get it. I can’t recall the name of it for the life of me, but you can’t miss the pretty picture in the highly visual menu.

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Next was a pork belly and soft boiled egg appetizer, which had three generously sized thick-ass hunks of braised belly. Perfection. It’s ramen toppings without the soup and noodles, essentially. Can’t go wrong with bacon and eggs, ever.

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I ordered a small version of the all-salmon Chirashi bowl (Salmon Oyako Don), which had four pieces of salmon sashimi and a good blob of briny and savory salmon roe. The sushi rice beneath was surprisingly tasty, and was topped with a good amount of fresh wasabi, ginger and sesame seeds.

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My wife ordered a grilled eel dish that came with a LOT of eel (in the pic, there is an entire second slab of eel that is not visible because it is UNDER the rice). It is served with a miso broth of sorts, to mix in with the sweet-yet-savory flavored rice. There’s also a plate of pickled items and some puffed rice for a crunchy texture element.

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In short, this place is great, and it is representative of the strong and growing force that is Japanese cuisine in midtown. We sat at the bar, and the guys were plating everything right in front of us. Some of the salad items were tremendous and included tons of proteins (fish). I will definitely be back here to try more shit in the future.

UPDATE: 7/17/17

AWESOME salmon don. Really good quality stuff.

IROHA
152 W. 49th St.
New York, NY 10019

Sarabeth’s

We visited the Key West location of this joint for brunch and liked it a lot. I had a poached salmon cobb salad with a side of duck bacon.

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The salad was on point – salmon was perfectly cooked, and all the components came together nicely. The duck bacon tasted a lot like turkey bacon, and it had a similar texture as well.