Sushi Nasase: The Best Omakase
One of my favorite moments in Bill Buford’s book, Heat, which chronicles (among other things) the birth of the Nusser-Bastianich-Batali venture, Casa Mono, is the moment when Batali rescues vegetal trimmings out of Babbo’s garbage and screams that the point of kitchens is to “buy food cheap, fix it up, and then sell it at a profit.” The dummy smack in the lesson is that Babbo sold the dusted-off greens for cash-money-dollars, which is how you turn a profit in the toughest business on earth.
What I love about this passage is that it’s both shocking and true. Any idiot can buy truffles and foie gras and make them taste delicious, but it takes a real craftsman to turn humble ingredients into art. This is one of the reasons I’m so devoted to Nanase, a restaurant where fish, herbs, rice, and salt become a sensual trip down a river of flavors
Okay, so Yoshimichi Takeda is using some swank ingredients, including fresh Japanese herbs and fish flown in daily—but never in huge volume, unlike nameless sushi restaurants that impress with mass rolls of cheaper fish. You won’t catch Takeda rolling fried batter bits into nori ice-cream cones and using the result to decorate a supine naked chick. He uses fresh, hand-grated wasabi and blends his own complex soy sauce with nose-tickling sancho pepper. His fish is pristine, his rice hauntingly red-wine-vinegared—and he’s not being a jerk when he won’t serve customers without reservations. He puts your money onto your plate, and not into wasted backup stock up for undependable walk-ins. (And if you think other restaurants are throwing out that older fish, look more closely at that fist-sized rainbow roll.)
Sushi Nanase’s décor is modest, highlighted by the world’s blah-est sign, whichuses the evil word “Oriental” and doesn’t mean a rug. Nevertheless, this tiny, 20- seat restaurant always sends me home floating. Here’s what we ate at last week’s omakase:
• Cool cubes of gelled, sesame-flavored tofu with an intense miso glaze; like a comforting nutty junket with a bang of miso’s salty complexity
• Four single bites: pickled Japanese green plum; a dreamy slice of duck breast with onion cream, chives, and chive blossoms; a low-tech molecular gastronomy tomato shell that mimicked a perfectly ripe August tomato (filled with cucumber minced to resemble green seeds and gelled chicken broth to resemble their goo); and rich, sweet, glazed red beans with sesame-seed coating. The tomato tasted like righteous gloves across Wylie Dufresne’s face—who needs all those chemicals and tools to mess with customers’ minds?
• Quivering raw scallop slices with that addictive sancho pepper, lime, and truffle. At this point, I realized why that sancho is plugging into my opiate receptors—it tastes like my old friend, ground, toasted Sichuan peppercorns, to which I am totally, helplessly addicted. (I have them at home, and have been known to lick a finger and dip in. Don’t judge.)
• Transparent sliced fluke with Takeda’s mystery soy sauce, olive oil, and yuzu rind-cured salt and those sancho peppercorns. At this point, I’m feeling crazily affectionate toward the chef, and am smiling at him and probably making him uncomfortable.
• Cooked Japanese snapper, whose skin was not only candied, but its flesh was sweet and gooey, too. Best of all, it was prepared in a toaster oven– which makes me take back every mocking thing that I’ve said to my colleague, John Turiano.
• And then came the long maki platter, which started with fat chunks of toro – which, long ago, I decided was foie gras of the sea. I was weak at that point and threw my notebook away, devoting all of my attention to Takeda’s delicious food. Sorry, guys—I was high on sancho and not responsible for my actions. I took a picture, though.
• Peach melba sorbet, which was cool and refreshing, though the most forgettable dish we ate that night
Here’s the kicker—Sushi Nanase’s omakase costs $85 and felt like a steal. God knows I’ve paid twice as much for a whole lot less artistry—I can’t wait to go again.
I Like a Good Beer Buzz Early in the Mornin’
Check out these fabulous beer events happening around the County.
Cask Ales at Captain Lawrence Brewery (June 19, 12pm-6pm, FREE) Taste where beer came from before fizzy taps became de rigueur. These hand-pulled cask ales have lower carbonation—they’re the cult quaff among serious beer geeks.
Summer Beer Dinner at Peekskill Brewery (July 14, 6 pm) Five great courses, five great beers—all from Scott Vaccaro’s fabulous Captain Lawrence Brewery. Here’s a rough idea of the menu, courtesy of Peekskill Brewery.
“Cheesy Beignet wrapped around an Olive, Local Green Beans wrapped in Prosciutto di Parma, Chilled Cucumber Soup with Lemon and Cumin (Captain Lawrence Sun block Witte)
Lazy Boy Saloon Beer Dinner at 42 (June 17, $110 (plus tax and gratuity)) These two White Plains giants pair up for a dinner in the clouds. Chef Anthony Goncalves will be matching Lazy Boy’s most intriguing beers with his impeccable brand of high-flying food. Here’s the menu, courtesy of Lazy Boy Saloon:
Baby Burgers with Goat cheese, ricotta, polenta, and jamon
(Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold—Belgian-style pale ale, Southampton Grand Cru—Belgian-style strong pale ale)
Passionfruit-olive oil emulsion, baby veggies, sumac, and spice
(Goose Island Sofie—Farmhouse/Saison)
Sausage with Homemade Sauerkraut and Mustard
(Captain Lawrence Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA Cask, Imperial IPA)
Lamb Belly Roulade with Polenta and Herbs
(Trappístes Rochefort 8—Belgian strong dark ale)
Rib Eye with Pomme Purée & Parsnip Frites
Dieu Du Ciel Péché Mortel Imperial Stout—imperial stout
Cheesecake with Lemon Curd, Strawberry Jam, Graham Crumble, and Milk Foam
Paired with: Boone Oud Kriek Lambic
Flying Dog Raging Bitch IPA (Cask)—Belgian-style IPA
August in June
Ever have a dish that just whips you upside your head, leaving you stunned and senseless with tiny birdies circling your brow? Sushi Nanase’s Yoshimichi Takeda offers a masterly evocation of high summer, using plain ‘ol June tomatoes filled with delicious, lightly gelled chicken broth. A tiny mince of cucumbers mimics green tomato seeds, and this single yummy bite packs all the flavor of August harvest.
FloFab Lays It Down!
Can’t stop reading this newish New York Times feature, Ask FloFab, where food-writing veteran Florence Fabricant adjudicates on dining dilemmas. Part Dear Abby and part Judge Judy, FloFab’s wonderfully acerbic writing is both hilarious and informative. Case in point? To the writer who complains that her boyfriend shovels food into his mouth like a recent POW release, FloFab retorts, “Try being a wittier conversationalist.”