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Posts from the ‘japanese/sushi’ Category

Lure Fishbar: A Seafood Lover’s Heaven, But Boy What a Scene

Lure Fishbar is an anomaly of sorts. It has been impossibly trendy for years, with a never-ending stream of supremely fashionable young ladies, tanned and slick older men, and cougars draped in fur; and yet, despite the at times overwhelming scene, it still turns out top-notch cocktails, flavorful food, and beautifully-executed sushi, all with warm and competent service.

Designed by the eponymous Serge Becker, the basement-level Lure Fishbar is gorgeous. The theme is nautical, but not in the cutesy New England marina with a lobster shack vein; instead, Lure Fishbar is designed like a mega-yacht with sparkling portholes for windows, gleaming wooden walls with circular golden lights, white lacquer accents, polished boat-deck flooring, and just a hint of the requisite blue and white. Circular booths coated in white leather face inward, allowing diners to gaze upon the bustling and glittering dining room. Up a half-level from the dining room is the darker bar area, with navy-and-white striped upholstered booths and a long bar, inevitably packed with groups of over-dressed women in their mid-30s and banker types.

Fittingly, seafood is the specialty at Lure Fishbar. The menu offers almost every imaginable type of mainstream seafood, from oysters on ice to raw bar specialties like littleneck clams and caviar to a full sushi menu with high-end products to tartares, ceviches and carpaccio, clam chowder, grilled octopus, salmon, and whole daurade, and a lovely lobster role. It is indisputable that the kitchen at Lure Fishbar is very good at preparing seafood. The sushi is marvelous – subtly flavored, perfectly wrapped and made with the freshest product, it is worth every penny. For tuna lovers, the spicy big eye tuna roll is luscious. With six or seven varieties of oysters on the menu any given night, there is a type of anyone – briny, sweet, bitter. With any choice, the sweet taste of the ocean floods in, cool and refreshing. From the appetizers, the crab cakes are delicious – lightly breaded, stuffed with sweet crab meat, and not too bulky. Other options are the famous fried blue point oysters with a classic caper tarter sauce, a twist on bagels & lox with a crispy grilled flatbread topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onion and dill, and beer-battered soft shell crab with creamy avocado.

From the entrees, stick with seafood – why eat meat when the seafood options are so good? The lobster roll is amazingly tasty with a hot buttery brioche roll, heaps of sweet tender lobster meat, lightly tossed in mayo, and served with a side of crispy salt and vinegar potato chips. Also wonderful is the Asian-inspired seared tuna, cooked to a beautiful medium rare, on a bed of soba noodles coated in a slightly spicy and rich peanut sauce. The menu has enticing diversity with everything from steamed snapper in red curry to juicy roasted scallops with chorizo and thick bucatini pasta to roasted shrimp with spicy short ribs, radish and mint. For the more adventurous eaters, an impressive grilled whole daurade comes plated with dill gnocchi and tomatoes. In the seafood entree section alone, there is something for every palate.

If you’re not prepared for the scene, Lure Fishbar can be immediately overwhelming. The music is loud, the chatter of tipsy fashionistas reverberates through the long space, the scent of men’s cologne wavers near the bar, and everyone is just so damn good-looking. But, if you know what you’re getting yourself into, Lure Fishbar is just plain fun. It’s a chic party where both the food and the drinks live up to the hype. And the best part? The table service is immensely friendly and efficient – not an ounce of pretension from anyone except the frazzled hostesses. All in all, Lure Fishbar is a great place to celebrate, to give visitors a taste of what’s it’s like to ‘go out on the town’ in New York City, and to enjoy the wonders of well-executed seafood.

Perfect For: stylish young things, seafood lovers, big blowout dinners, late night bar snacks, cocktails and oysters

Lure Fishbar on Urbanspoon

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Bento Burger: Where Anime, Americana, and Frat Bar Meet

There’s no way around it – Bento Burger, a new Japanese-American ‘pub’ in the Southern East Village, is a weird place. Part American fratty dive bar and part Japanese-inspired pub, this ‘restaurant’ suffers from multiple personality disorder, is punishingly loud, and appeals to the post-fraternity youth that troll the Lower East Side and East Village. That being said, Bento Burger has a quirky party-hard vibe ideal for setting the mood on a big night out and some seriously great food.

The narrow space on 2nd Street off First Avenue is not easily missed; its presence is announced by neon graffiti and tall brightly-colored banners covered in Japanese characters and anime cartoons. It’s a slice of technicolor Tokyo on an otherwise dark and moody block. Inside, Bento Burger is a futuristic and industrial space, a bit grimy, and unfortunately affected by the frat bar smell of spilled beer. At the front, along one wall, is a scarlet-hued bar with crimson sheets hanging over the bar stools. Along the opposite wall are red leather booths, each with it’s own tray of sauces, chopsticks, and menus (a la Friendly’s, for those who remember) and each surrounded by ‘artful’ graffiti murals. A jukebox is parked in the back, manipulated more often than not by perhaps too-inebriated chicks who just cannot live without Katy Perry for one more minute.

Despite the more bar than restaurant atmosphere, the ‘Japanese roadhouse’ fare is delicious. The menu features classic American bar-fare, dressed up with some fancy ingredients and inspired by Japanese flavors. Think: chicken wings, fried calamari, spring rolls, and an array of scrumptious burgers. The ‘Hambuguu’ burger, a sumptuous blend of beef and sirloin, is rich and flavorful, especially when topped with the spicy wasabi aioli. The Thai Chicken burger is remarkable; the patty is actually ground chicken, not a piece of grilled marinated chicken breast, and is incredibly juicy; the spicy papaya relish piled on top is sweet, spicy, and savory all at once. Perhaps the best food delivered by the kitchen though came in the form of side dishes. The wasabi mashed potatoes are creamy and fluffy with a strong but not overpowering hot wasabi flavor; the sweet potato fries are some of the best I’ve ever had – cut thick, the perfect blend of crispy and soft, and doused in salt, pepper and what had to have been truffle oil. Less successful yet still tasty were the tempura onion rings. While they lacked in that crisp crunch I long for in fried food, the thick onions were soft and sweet and the accompanying wasabi aioli made up for the lack of flavor in the tempura batter.

All in all, Bento Burger is ideal for a raging good time (for example: a big group celebrating the end of final exams) – the food is delicious, just greasy enough, and packed with intense flavors, there is a pretty impressive cocktail selection, and after knocking a few back, I could imagine how difficult it would be to ignore the jukebox’s siren song. If you know what you’re getting yourself into, the low prices and good food ensure that you’ll get a great bang for your buck. Keep in mind though, no matter how you spin it, the slightly grimy/party-hard atmosphere and friendly yet frankly incompetent table service is terrible for intimate gatherings or, god forbid, dates.

Bento Burger on Urbanspoon

brushtroke: A French Chef’s Ode to Japan

David Bouley, the local Tribeca personality and Michelin-starred chef most known for his flagship restaurant Bouley, has opened a Japanese kaiseki restaurant after ten years of preparation. Bouley, somewhat of a legend in New York dining and perhaps one of the most quintessentially New York of the city’s superstar chefs, is known for many things – including use of the sous vide bag in cooking, nouvelle cuisine, and, in a DeNiro-like way, boosting the Tribeca community. However, he is not known for Japanese cooking, which is perhaps why his newest venture brushstroke is something of a marvel and an oddity.

Situated in Tribeca, like all of his New York restaurants, in the space formally occupied by the unsuccessful brasserie Secession, brushstroke is mellow and refined. The angular space is divided into two sections: a main dining room/sushi bar and a bar. Both are of modern Japanese design – sparse decor, almost completely covered in blond wood, rice paper ‘curtains,’ a substantial sushi bar made of a wooden slab. The atmosphere is hushed, elegant and contemplative – diners sit quietly awaiting the wonders to come, speaking quietly over glasses of sake or perhaps just watching the masterful sashimi skills of the sushi chef behind the counter. Staff linger everywhere. Men holding plates stand behind diners as head waiters then place the dishes in front of guests, explaining what is involved in each offering; a ‘sommelier’ hovers, eager to explain the ‘notes’ of each wine and sake on the extensive menu; hosts and hostesses not only lead patrons to their seats, but also assist in serving; and, of course, Bouley himself, in a chef’s jacket, often wanders the dining room, speaking to regulars, watching over the ceremony.

The food at brushstroke is authentic Japanese, served kaiseki style in either 8 or 10 courses, arranged through 2 prix-fixe menus. There is little choice involved and after sorting out what rice dish you want, the waiters merely start bringing out, in rapid succession, course after course after course. The courses build on each other, starting with light and refreshing raw fish, culminating with a rich cod course followed by a beef course, and descending to the denouement of a surprisingly lovely Japanese dessert. The difference between the 8 and the 10 course menus, besides $50 in total price and 2 more courses, primarily involves higher quality ‘artisanal’ ingredients and the sense that the kitchen is just working harder on the 10 course.

The 10 course menu started with a few slices of hamachi, Japanese yellowtail, folded on top of each other, doused in an acidic tomato vinegar, and topped with sliced grape tomatoes and smoked seaweed. It was a light and refreshing, and the quality of the fish was truly remarkable. Next, the least likable course served that evening – a cool and unusual sweet potato potage with yam mousse and thick swatches of Santa Barbara uni. Each individual part seemed wonderful, yet when put together, the result was bitter, salty, and unsatisfying. Third was arguably one of the best courses offered, a cold smoked duck breast served top marinated Japanese eggplant with a tangy miso mustard dressing; it is a beautifully-executed dish with tender slightly-chewy duck and a sauce you just to lick off your plate. Fourth, three nuggets of seared toro with a chunky relish-like sweet/savory sauce – each nugget, cooked a pink medium-rare, melts in your mouth like only toro (the fattiest part of tuna belly) can, and the acidic flavorful sauce cuts the overwhelming richness of the toro perfectly.

Starting with the fifth dish, the meal moved into a heavier and more luxurious stage. Fifth was a steamed egg custard, served in the bottom of a cup and topped with a black truffle broth and bits of Dungeness crab. This dish tasted like money – rich, fragrant, textural, and truffles, lots of truffles. Seared unagi, or eel, followed. Billed as a truly traditional dish, the rich buttery slices of eel sat atop steamed okra and a mysterious yet addictive sauce – marvelously-prepared, there wasn’t an ounce of ‘too fishy’ in the unagi. Next, a dish beloved by Japanese restaurants all over New York, the seared miso-marinated black cod. Bouley’s rendition is topped with finely-chopped walnuts and surrounded by a deep orange pool of peach carrot melon puree, turning a Japanese fusion standard into something refreshing, luxurious, and unusual.

The wagyu beef course follows, a duo of cold and hot preparations: on the one side, sliced wagyu tataki in a light ponzu sauce, and on the other, sliced wagyu steak, prepared medium rare, with a zingy garlic and sansho pepper sauce. Though not the best wagyu dish ever put in front of me, it’s hard to deny the rich flavorful quality of the beef when prepared with such care. The last of the savory dishes, the rice dish, is the only course where diners have a choice. The options are assorted sashimi slices over rice, dungeness crab steamed with rice, a lobster sushi roll with soup, lobster steamed with rice, and rock shrimp and corn steamed with rice. Where the rock shrimp and corn option is too salty and oceanic for my taste, the dungeness crab is simple, filling, and stuffed with generous helpings of fresh crab meat. Whereas all previous courses were small ‘tastes,’ the rice dish was substantial, transferred from a big black pot into a small bowl three times over.

And with that, the savory course marathon came to a close. Lychee sorbet, presented atop a hardened raspberry puree, was a palate cleanser – cold, clean-tasting, bright citrus flavors that reset our taste buds for the sweet course to come. brushstroke’s final farewell was a two-part dessert, consisting of a soy panna cotta with matcha green tea sauce and a matcha green tea pastry along with a large bowl of matcha green tea and stuffed baked rice paper. The soy panna cotta was absolutely delightful, light and airy with a creamy subtle flavor; the traditional matcha green tea pastry, a gelatinous cube reminiscent of a gelee petit four, was not quite as successful, though rapidly adored by my dinner date; the stuffed and baked rice paper was a final palate cleanser, crispy and air-filled; and the matcha green tea, sipped slowly from a bowl as a classic Japanese digestif, was the cherry on top of a remarkable meal.

Dinner at Bouley’s brushstroke is a marathon. It takes awhile, close to or over two hours in most cases, and is a very formalized process. There are periods of waiting, almost too many staff members, and inexplicable moments when your food is standing behind you, in the hands of staff, yet not placed in front of you for your enjoyment. The experience is unusual in a dining scene where restaurants serve lavish meals quickly and a la carte. But, for those looking for a special experience, brushstroke is a wonderful and unique option in a city where so many ‘gourmet’ restaurants offer the same experience in the same sort of atmosphere over and over again.

Perfect For: justifiable splurging, serious people serious about food, sake aficionados, special occasions, decadent sushi dates, celebrity chef spotting

Brushstroke on Urbanspoon

Hung Ry: Organic and Sustainable Noodles at Bowery’s Hottest Corner

Hung Ry is a new organic noodle shop on the hottest eating corner of Bowery. Peels just opened up across the street; Il Buco and Mercat are next door; BONDST and The Smile are a few doorsteps down; Double Crown, DBGB, and Pulino’s just a couple blocks south. My good friend Lauren and I were initially drawn to it, before NYMag’s rave review, by word that some of the furniture (as it turns out, the chairs) was repurposed from the University of Pennsylvania’s library. Always nostalgic for our college days, we figured it was a must-try.

All I can say is, yes, it is a must-try. Hung Ry is pretty much a noodle shop revelation. Airy and stylish, with on-trend industrial decor, it defies cramped and crowded noodle shop expectations. Large plate-glass windows let in bright sunlight during the day and the soft flow of Bond Street’s streetlamps at night; each carefully curated element of the decor is refurbished and repurposed (read: “distressed chic”), mostly from ebay: church pew benches, library chairs, diner/cafe tables; napkins are hand-stitched and starched stiff; painted and gleaming pipes intersect in a maze across the ceiling; the open kitchen is sparkling steel, industrial, intimidating, professional. Chefs, dressed neatly, work purposefully and efficiently as a unit, eerily quiet in their work; it’s marvelous. Only in the old Bowery neighborhoods witnessing aggressive rejuvenation can you find such an intriguing space, turned, with vision, into a restaurant. Word of warning though: if you don’t like politics with your food, Hung Ry may not be your ideal spot. Leftist, organic, politically organic, and openly proclaiming everything from views on healthcare (on the website) to the benefits of reusing furniture (with the owner in person), Hung Ry is an establishment that isn’t afraid to let you know what it thinks about changing the way people eat.

…And the way people eat at Hung Ry is very very good. The star here are the hand-pulled noodles, made from organic flour in the tradition of Lanzhou cuisine in northwestern China. Chewy, silky, and with truly wonderful “mouth feel,” these noodles are the typical noodles you’d find in Chinatown; they’re just as satisfying and marvelously textured and yet turned ‘up a notch’ with expensive meats and vegetables from local purveyors. The duck breast and leg noodles, served with generous douses of Szechuan peppers, are a revelation: tender, juicy and high-quality meat, hot and spicy broth mercifully devoid of too much oil. The whole dish has a rich and salty body to it; though the servings are large, it’s virtually impossible not to lap up the whole bowl. Similarly, the beef brisket noodles are remarkable, loaded with melt-in-your-mouth beef, a perfectly-cooked egg, tripe for flavor, meaty roasted eggplant and an unusual dose of mustard oil; it is nothing short of complicated, playful, and delicious.

Hung Ry is mellow and sophisticated, friendly, and appealing to the do-gooder type (though, if you’re not political about your good, you should try the brisket noodles anyway). It has all the markings of a hot spot in the making, but not because of backing from a big name restauranteur, celebrity chef, or gold standard public relations team. Instead, it’s guaranteed to be popular simply because of it’s relaxed, hip, and delicious.

Perfect For: NYU journalism school students, noodles fans, quirky dates, locavores, lefties (in the political sense), hipsters and yupsters

Hung Ry on Urbanspoon

Hide Chan: Traditional Noodles, Quirky Noodles Shop

Ramen shops are a dime a dozen in New York and most of them are very similar. Hide Chan, a second-floor sliver of a restaurant in Turtle Bay, is quirky enough to be memorable (perhaps for the wrong reasons) and tasty enough to warrant repeat visits. On a quiet block in the 50s, between 2nd and 3rd avenues, Hide Chan is easily missed, with no name printed in English and just a slender staircase leading mysteriously upwards.

The restaurant itself is sparse and narrow, with cheap tables and cheaper design flourishes. I won’t lie and tell you that I remember anything in particular about the look of the place, but I think that just underlines that it doesn’t really matter. People don’t come here for the atmosphere. Perhaps the most striking thing about Hide Chan, other than the ramen, is the music in the background – a strange mix of Barbara Streisand, the early years, mid-90s rock, and old-school lounge crooners.

A list tacked to the wall outlines Hide Chan’s most popular items, and it’s pretty accurate for what to order. The traditional Hakata Tonkotsu ramen tops the list and for good reason. The bowl of thin noodles, steeped in a rich oily broth, with slices of pork layered on top, is satisfying, addictive, and somehow both simple and decadent. Add slices of ginger, provided, to give it an extra kick. The Hakata Spicy ramen is the same scrumptious broth and noodle combo as the traditional option, yet with splashes of rayu, a traditional spice that adds enough heat to clear the sinuses. Always a fan of cold noodles, I couldn’t say no to the Hiyashi Tsuke-Men, a rendition of cold soba, served thick and chilly with a mildly spicy sesame oil and a small bowl of dipping broth, if you feel so inclined. While the traditional Tonkotsu ramen was definitely the highlight, Hide Chan’s noodles are all distinguished by a not-too-slippery and not-too-sticky texture, marvelously rich broths and sauces, and just enough spice to keep you awake.

Hide Chan’s not necessarily a destination ramen shop, but if you’re in Midtown East and desperately searching for something different among the rows of big bucks steakhouses, red sauce italian joints, and mediocre sushi takeout windows, this delectable option on 52nd street will save the day. Don’t be surprised if the music’s more than a bit off or if the service ranks beyond bizarre, just put your head down and slurp away at what you really came for anyway, the ramen.

Hide Chan Ramen on Urbanspoon

Sushi Yasuda: Great Sushi, But The Best?

Can someone please explain to me what the big deal is about Sushi Yasuda? I understand the fish is fresh; I understand the selection of fish is unique; I understand that very serious sushi-making takes place; however, I do not understand why this upscale and admittedly very good sushi spot garners rave reviews as one of the best in the city. To me, it seems like another expensive and focused sushi restaurant that produces quality fare – not exactly a novelty in Manhattan.
If you didn’t know the address, it’s easy enough to traipse right by the unmarked modern storefront smushed between corporate office towers and the back delivery areas of 3rd Avenue’s chain stores. Through sliding doors is a simple, dim, and spacious dining room, dominated by smooth and textural bamboo wood ceilings, floors, and paneling. The look is strictly minimalist, with no artwork and perhaps a plant, standing lonely in the corner.
The table service mimics the scene, sparse. Our waitress barked at us, coolly and robotically, never bothered to explain the rather complicated menu, and responded sharply when I asked her clarifying questions, or really, anything at all. She could barely hide her irritation when I tried to order a prix-fixe meal from the wrong menu, god forbid.
While the service is frosty, the sushi is good enough to land itself in the upper echelon of New York’s sushi dens. The focus is on simplicity. Each plate is served without garnishes and adornments in a plain bamboo box. If a fish is to be complemented by lightly seasoned rice, woven through with wasabi, it is served as sushi (though it can be offered in sashimi form). If it stands best on its own, it will be presented sashimi style. Maki rolls let the fish shine – there are no funky ‘special rolls’, just cuts of pure fresh fish wrapped in Sushi Yasuda’s unique rice blend and seaweed.
There is no question that the fish is beautiful – rich, luxurious, soft, flavorful. At it’s core, Sushi Yasuda is an homage to fresh market-driven fish, with astonishing variety and simplistic clean presentations. Yet, is Sushi Yasuda the best sushi you’ll find in Manhattan? No. It doesn’t sparkle or shine; it doesn’t take risks; there’s no innovation or surprise. For what it offers, it is lovely, but I had hoped for something more.
Sushi Yasuda has a league of rabid fans, including many a famous restaurant critic; it has pedigree; it has a recognizable name in a city with a sushi spot on every street corner; yet, it seems to lack soul. The space, the service, and, ultimately, the food is sterile. Sushi Yasuda is saved by its impeccable product, beautiful and diverse fish.
Perfect For: client lunches, sushi freaks, a quick meal alone, a subdued splurge

Sushi Yasuda on Urbanspoon

SUteiShi: Upscale Sushi Comes to the Seaport

Sushi spots are as common in Manhattan as delis and pizza parlors, peppering blocks from Tribeca to Spanish Harlem. Yet, as most of us know, how good a sushi place is can vary from divine to truly abominable. Tomoe Sushi, Sushi Yasuda, the big box spots like Megu and Nobu – these names are well known as the city’s top spots to get fresh fish. Now, there’s another name to consider: SUteiShi, a modern and expensive newcomer to the South Street Seaport.

On a quiet cobblestoned street with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, SUteiShi is a modestly-sized two room sushi star that you would only stumble upon if you were expressly looking for it. The front room is contemporary and cool with large airy windows, modern chandeliers, and blue tone walls; the back room is firey red with dark wood tables spilling through open french doors onto the sidewalk and a petite sushi bar. The looks are different, but the feel is the same – upscale, relaxed, and simple.

Like most serious sushi restaurants though, the decor comes a distant second to the quality of the food. And at SUteiShi, where the grub comes for top dollar, you get what you pay for. The sushi and sashimi is super fresh; the big eye tuna is so tender and buoyant that it melts in your mouth; the mackerel is slightly chewy, with a salty skin and soft underbelly; the toro is good enough for swooning, supple and mellow-flavored, utterly luxurious in an otherwise standard maki roll; salmon is bright pink and moist – no dry orange crap here; mild white fluke comes thin and ‘fusion-style’ with rich purply plum sauce. Aside from classic sushi and sashimi menus, SUteiShi offers a plethora of complex ‘belly-licious’ special rolls, ranging from the ‘Blue Lagoon’ with portabello mushroom tempura, campyo and eel on top to the ‘Angelfish,’ a delightful spicy white tuna roll with mango and white tuna on top to the SUteiShi Pearl, a rich roll stuffed with fried oysters, spicy mayo, and kani on top.

While the name clearly indicates a passion for sushi, SUteiShi also offers hot dishes, including noodles, teriyaki, grilled black cod with miso, tempura, and soups. The Kakiage Udon, a soup noodle dish, stands out with plump udon noodles, a delightful savory broth, and an utterly scrumptious white fish and shrimp pancake that’s meant to be crushed and sprinkled over the soup. While good and belly-warming, I’d still recommend sticking with what SUteiShi does best: sushi.

While not as well known as Tomoe or Sushi Yasuda or as over the top as Masa, SUteiShi shows that you can be both the new underdog on the sushi scene (with a rather out of the way location) and pretty freaking wonderful. Service can be uneven, so don’t expect a quick in-and-out, but trust me when I say that what SUteiShi has to offer is worth the wait.

Perfect For: business lunch, fresh fish all week long, top-notch sushi without the wait, dining solo, scoping out FiDi’s surprisingly good-looking populace, sake shenanigans, sushi-lovers date night

SUteiShi on Urbanspoon