Category Archives: Contemporary Fusion

Basta Pasta

I recently made friends with an Italian man from Rome and discovered that he loves Japanese food. This reminded me of Basta Pasta – Japanese-style Italian food. I was curious how he perceived Italian and Japanese fusion, so I invited him and another food lover for dinner. We arrived after 10:00 pm to find the restaurant extremely busy – even on a weekday evening.

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Whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant with non-Japanese friends, I usually end up choosing an appetizer. However, I took advantage of being with an Italian person and asked him to pick a starter to share. Out of over 15 available choices, he first selected Polpo, or roasted/braised octopus, but after learning it was sold out for the evening he opted for Calamari alla Griglla. It was grilled calamari instead of the traditional fried version, and it came with sausage stuffed with curry risotto. The squid was so fresh and delicious! The second appetizer was Gnocchi di Patata, which was sweet potato gnocchi with sage cream sauce and lighter than I anticipated. For our main courses all of us ordered pasta dishes. We noticed that a number of other guests ordered Spaghetti con prosciutto e parmigiano, perhaps because they were intrigued by the fact that the pasta is tossed in a parmigiano wheel. I ordered Fettuccini alla Bolognese, and fettuccini was homemade and the meat sauce was deliciously matched with the noodle.

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We ordered two desserts – Tiramisu and flan. Both were very good (the flan reminded me of Japanese desserts that are not overly sweetened)!

http://www.bastapastanyc.com

Price: Entrees $22-28

Neighborhood: Flatiron District

Dress code: Casual

Dining alone: Yes, but maybe good place for group gathering

Dieci

Two of my favorite restaurants have closed within the last few weeks. Teshigotoya, an izakaya favorite in the East Village that I introduced in this blog last year, closed its doors on October 10.   Dieci is the second one that actually closed last month. I have known about Dieci’s existence for two years, and I regrettably only recently had the chance to visit again – I made it a point to do so when I heard the news that they were closing.  Dieci has been in business in the Lower East Side for over ten years and has developed quite a favorable reputation for its Italian-fusion Japanese menu.  According to their general manager, Takashi Yamada, the reason for closure is because of rent costs.

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Takashi, now actually one of my friends, is excellent at pairing sake with food.  During this recent visit four other sake-loving friends just asked him to select whatever he felt was a good match for our food. I ordered a Filet Mignon Steak that I honestly believe was the best I have had in several years. It had a delicious mushroom sauce along with truffle soy reduction that matched perfectly with my Nigori Dassai sake.  One friend ordered black cod, or widely known as Gindara Saikyo, a popular line up in Japanese restaurants in NYC.  Unlike just plain grilled cod, the one here is like a rice bowl with truffled mushroom risotto and poached egg. This is somewhat of a unique method of preparation, which had me wondering about the taste.  I learned that natural juices of the fish blended into the rice risotto that created a delicious mild, savory soy flavor.

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It is disappointing that I can no longer dine at such great places and/or introduce these two to fellow New Yorkers.  Unfortunately this is a sad trend in NYC (and frankly, probably true in a number of U.S. cities) where small business owners cannot afford sustaining their business because of rent increases.  But good news – Dieci is looking for a new location!  Stay tuned to this blog, as I will announce their new location and information as soon as it becomes available.

Price: Entrees $22-28

Neighborhood: East Village

Dress code: Casual

Private Party and Group Dinner: They accommodate private parties of up to 40 people for standing room and 23 people for seated dinner.

http://www.dieciny.com

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Rabbit House

Rabbit House is a new and cozy wine and sake bar located in the Lower East Side. I heard about the restaurant and owner, chef Yoshiko Sakuma, in a Japanese newspaper, and I visited one Friday evening with another Japanese food lover. There are a lot of touted hidden gems in NYC, but I think this is a real one. Behind the counter/open kitchen, we could see Yoshiko cooking and it was visible that most of dishes were made from scratch. She is also a sake sommelier, so definitely take advantage of recommended sake pairings is she is not too busy! Chef Yoshiko used to work in various high profile restaurants such as Bouley, Del Posto, and Jewel Bako, and she brings delicious and interesting foods to the warm, comfortable atmosphere of the restaurant. Her dishes are her original creations, and they taste as delicious as they are beautiful in their presentation.

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We had Tako-Taco (tako is octopus in Japanese) with a seaweed sauce and Tuna Tartare with dragon fruit for starters. Her attention to detail is amazing – a very organic, homemade style with hints of Japan. We wanted to try the spare ribs, but those were all gone due to their popular demand. Instead we opted for a chicken dish and a quinoa pilaf for entrees – both exceptional in their preparation and taste – and both works of art.

The Rabbit House is a true hidden gem that won’t stay hidden for long. I highly suggest giving it a try sometime soon!

 

Price: $80 total including few drinks each

Neighborhood: Lower East Side

Dress code: Casual

Dining alone: Yes, nice counter is available

Lunch: A Bento Box $14

http://www.rabbithouse.nyc

NOBU NEXT DOOR – NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2016

 

Nobu Next Door opened in 1998 as an extension of the original Nobu, has now taken on a life of its own. Its menu mirrors the original Nobu and offers Nobu To Go. Nobu Next Door is a regular participant in NYC Restaurant Week in the last few seasons. As you can imagine, it was hard to book a table during the weeks. I finally managed to get a table for 2 in the very last day of the Restaurant Week.

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Overall the original Nobu and its next door share same menu for the Restaurant Week this time. For starter, they offer choice of: Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing, Black Cod Miso on Limestone Lettuce and Fluke Sashimi with Dried Miso. At Nobu last week, I ended up choosing Sashimi Salad for my starter, so this time I picked Black Cod Miso, the signature dish. It was so good and tender, I was very much wanting to have few more pieces! For main, there are 3 Choices of: Rock Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Creamy Sauce, Beef Tenderloin with Anticucho or Teriyaki Sauce and Assorted Sushi. I did beef Anticucho and my friend took shrimp then we shared. The beef tasted a bit spicy and this is the Nobu’s Peruvian influence. We really enjoyed both. You can pick a dessert either “Rhubarb Jasmine Tartlette” White Chocolate Jasmine Tea Cream with Rhubarb Raspberry Compote On Sucree Tart or “Caramel Miso Tartlette” Dry Miso Caramel Cream with Apricot Lime Compote On Chocolate Tart.

 

 

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http://www.noburestaurants.com/next-door/experience/

Price: three-course prix fixe dining deals for lunch ($29) and dinner ($42).

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Dress code: Smart Casual

Dining alone: Yes, there is a nice sushi counter

To go: Yes

NOBU – NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2016

I am exited to hear Nobu participating NYC Restaurant Week this summer both for lunch (M-F) and dinner (Sunday). Probably Nobu is one of the most famous Japanese restaurants in the world. Nobu New York, the flagship restaurant of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, is collaboration between Nobu, actor Robert De Niro, producer Meir Teper and restaurateur Drew Nieporent. Nobu started his career at Japanese restaurants in Tokyo and his life around the world to create a new trend in Japanese cuisine at his first restaurant. The dishes make Nobu an innovator of new style Japanese food. The design of the restaurant evokes the beauty of the Japanese countryside with its natural textures, birch trees, wood floors and a wall made of river stones.

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One of the weekdays I asked 3 office mates to join me to have a long lunch break at Nobu. It was a somewhat hard to book a table for 4 as most all lunchtime availability had been taken. I could see how much New Yorkers are exited to take advantage of dining in Nobu during the annual Restaurant Week.

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For starter, they offer choice of: Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing, Black Cod Miso on Limestone Lettuce and Fluke Sashimi with Dried Miso. Black Cod Miso is a signature dish, so I wanted my friends to try, but Sashimi Salad looked so good so all of ended up. For main, there are 3 Choices of: Umami Charr with Heirloom Tomato Salad, Chicken with Anticucho or Teriyaki Sauce and Assorted Sushi. You can pick a dessert either “Rhubarb Jasmine Tartlette” White Chocolate Jasmine Tea Cream with Rhubarb Raspberry Compote On Sucree Tart or “Caramel Miso Tartlette” Dry Miso Caramel Cream with Apricot Lime Compote On Chocolate Tart.

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I have dined at several Nobu restaurants both inside the US and overseas. I am amazed by every aspect that the restaurants offer. For the 3 colleagues, this is their first experience dining at Nobu and they definitely enjoyed it.

http://noburestaurants.com/new-york/experience-3/

Price: three-course prix fixe dining deals for lunch ($29) and dinner ($42).

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Dress code: Smart Casual

Dining alone: Yes, there is a nice sushi counter

Great to special occasions

Morimoto – NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2016

Morimoto NYC is a restaurant owned by famous “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto. He is best known as an Iron Chef on the TV cooking shows Iron Chef America. He received practical training in traditional Japanese cuisine in his hometown Hiroshima. Influenced by Western cooking styles, he started his global career in Japanese Fusion. He is also known for his unique style of presenting food.

I have a colleague who love the TV show Iron Chef and we were looking for a chance to have lunch at a restaurant by the Japanese Iron Chef. How lucky that Morimoto NYC is participating in the Restaurant Week.

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There are 7 choices for entrée and each comes with miso soup, green salad, pickles and white rice. For deserts, 2 items are offered which are not on their regular menu. I ordered the Braised Black Cod for entrée and the Pot de Crème for dessert. My colleague got the Hamachi Poke(yellowtail) and the chocolate fondant. We shared to taste all, and everything was amazing. My cod is perfectly braised as if it melts in the mouth and beautifully decorated using some very small piece of vegetables. She joked that this is part of Japanese advanced technologies. I often order black cod whenever I see on the menu at Japanese restaurant. I would say this is the best I have ever tasted both for taste and presentation.

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Overall, this place provides a great mix of American and Japanese cuisine with top-notch service, comfortable seating, beautiful interior design (even the bathroom); I will definitely be back to Morimoto to try more of their fantastic options!

http://www.morimotonyc.com

Price: three-course prix fixe dining deals for lunch ($29) and dinner ($42).

Neighborhood: Chelsea

Dress code: Casual

Dining alone: Yes, there is a nice sushi counter

Great to special occasions

Fatty Fish

Fatty Fish is a Michelin rated Asian-inspired American restaurant located on the Upper East Side. I have dined here in the past, and I very much like their menu creativity which is slightly unusual in pure, traditional Japanese restaurants. I was recently introduced to Chef Roy and decided to visit again shortly thereafter. After two years living in NYC I feel that I have covered most of the high profile Japanese restaurants; generally speaking most menus are somewhat similar to their peers in my opinion, and I am always seeking to try something new.

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When I was speaking with Roy he mentioned that he has been consistently refreshing the menu so that he can offer something innovative or perhaps a new style of cuisine. I love the concept of “East meets West” where Western culinary techniques are used to prepare oriental ingredients – something that has been trendy in the U.S. for a while now. In my eyes a majority of the fusion menus tend to have somewhat of a Japanese influence.

One weekday evening Timothy Sullivan, the Sake Samurai, and I visited Fatty Fish. Roy welcomed us and gave a quick tour of the space. I was amazed by the outdoor seating area which can accommodate 40 guests – all inside a temperature-controlled beautiful garden perfect for a special event or gathering.

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We started off with a Hakkaisan bottle of sake with pan-seared edamame sprinkled with kosher salt and seasame seeds. Normally I pair sake with sashimi, however, this combination was equally as nice. We then ordered several small plates and absolutely loved the “Plumtori” chicken basket. The chicken was buttermilk-marinated and fried to a crispy golden brown and then tossed in a special house-blend dried plum seasoning. It was juicy and tender and while it looked like traditional Japanese karaage, it had a different but delightful taste. Afterwards we ordered and shared a pork bun. Pork buns are becoming popular in Asian restaurants in NYC and I haven’t really found any that are memorable and make me want to order more – until now. The ones here are not the steamed doughy kind with flavored pork stuffed in the center. The pork and the bun are served individually, and the mouth-watering meat melted in my mouth. The seasoning complemented the natural flavors of the pork, and I think I could have eaten these all evening!

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I ordered curry jumbo shrimp and vegetables for my main course. This dish was Thai-inspired and my first experience of pairing sake with a coconut milk curry – something I won’t find in any traditional Japanese restaurant.   Unlike normal Thai seasoning the shrimp was mild and harmonized with the broccoli, bamboo, and greens.

Roy mentioned the he just started ramen and the “Captain’s Wild Catch” is the signature order. I am already excited to come back to try it!!

Another outstanding thing about this restaurant is the warm and friendly service. I was not surprised about that after meeting Roy, and it is very apparent that his personality reflects the attitude of the entire staff. I highly recommend Fatty Fish for a delicious meal or special occasion.

http://www.fattyfishnyc.com

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

Dress code: Casual

Dining alone: Yes, counter is available

Outdoor space: Amazing outdoor garden seating available

Other: BYOB

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Natsumi

I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog and she said that recently I seemed to focus only on authentic choices for the past couple of months. And when I stopped to think about her message I came to the realization that she was right. When I started the blog I intended to write about Japanese-fusion restaurants also.

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The 2016 winter NYC Restaurant Week was a good opportunity to talk about something new, and it gave me a chance to find out why Natsumi is so cool. According to their website, Natsumi specializes in Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine. Barbara Matsumura and Chef Haru Konagaya, formerly of Haru Restaurants, teamed up to create a strikingly original new destination in the heart of the Theater District.

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At Natsumi there are various choices on the 3-course menu. Several options are available for each appetizer, main entrée, and dessert. Since my theme was fusion, I ordered sashimi taco (Salmon and Tuna sashimi on taco) for my appetizer, filet mignon with shiitake sauce for my entrée, and Cheese Cake Tempura for dessert. The quality exceeded my expectations in a big way; my friends who were along felt the same way about their choices. The liquor list has a number of international selections to include red, white, and sparkling wines and champagne by the glass and/or bottle. They also have available a large bottle of sake (isshobin) which is very unique outside of Japan.

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Overall we were all impressed and decided that Natsumi would be a good choice outside of restaurant week and will definitely be back!!

Price: $38 for a pre-fix dinner menu during NYC Restaurant Week

Neighborhood: Times Square

Dress code: Smart casual

Private Party Venue: Lively lounge and recommended for gathering with friends

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http://natsuminyc.com

Douzo – Boston

I previously introduced several Japanese restaurants in Washington, DC, as the city is one of the most visited destinations by business travellers from NYC. This time, I would like to introduce a Japanese restaurant in another popular city –Boston. Interestingly enough, when I order sushi and sashimi in Japanese restaurants in NYC I often notice that the fish comes from Boston. I had been looking forward to visiting Boston so I could try Japanese food there. Fortunately a recent business trip afforded me the opportunity to do so, and after a little research I picked Douzo for my dinner destination.

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According to my research prior to the trip, I felt Douzo should definitely be one of the higher-end and higher quality sushi restaurants in Boston. A lot of the reviews suggested making a reservation in advance – even on weekdays. But if you plan to go solo, I would suggest finding a cozy seat at the bar where you can still order a full menu.

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For starters I opted for grilled sweet corn, which was flavored with soy, chili powder, and butter. After that I selected salmon tartar. I was expecting the salmon to be prepared ‘Quebec’ style, which is typically minced, however, here it was cubed and equally delicious. For my main entrée I ordered sashimi and was amazed at how large their cuts of fish were – nearly two or three times thicker that comparable restaurants in New York City. Each piece was very juicy and perfectly fatty, and the standouts for me were salmon, fatty tuna, and yellow tail.

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http://douzosushi.com

 

Price: $60 for all of my selections + one beer and tip

Neighborhood: Boston Back Bay

Dress code: Smart casual

Dining alone: Yes, a nice bar/counter is available

Take Out: Yes

Teshigotoya(Closed)

The opening of Teshigotoya has been announced for a while and my Japanese friends in NYC were very much exited about it. I finally had an opportunity to dine there on a weekday night. Teshigotoya means “hand-made place” and the restaurant is literally preparing their food in that fashion in an open kitchen visible from every table. According to Chopsticks NY magazine, Keita Rosenfield, the chef of this amazing cozy place, is big on seasonal ingredients. When I visited with a long time Japanese friend, there was a long list of autumn menu choices showcasing harvest delicacies. Even though we were tempted to try some of these options, we decided to choose from the regular menu dishes as there were an equal number of items we wanted to try.

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We started with ‘Potato Salad Cake’, which upon arrival seemed more like a beautiful dessert than a dish of potatoes and vegetables mixed in. It had several red layers that I believe were thinly sliced beets with authentic Japanese potato salad in between. The taste confirmed that it was homemade and seemingly from the freshest ingredients. Next was corn tempura. This is only the second time I have found this dish in the US. Teshigotoya’s version is definitely a handcrafted appetizer because the corn kernels were still intact, deep fried, and served in small rectangular bites. I could taste the sweetness of the corn even after the frying, and it was beautifully served against a squared section of the cob. We were about to order another “Okawari” which is refill.

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For the main entree, it was a tough decision as there were many attractive items on the menu – both meat and seafood. Since both of us had eaten sushi the day before, we opted for a couple of meat dishes to share. I order a grilled pork steak with a demi glace sauce. The pork was tender and perfectly grilled with the sauce being nice and thick. The price was only $15 and I was very surprised given the size and quality. The second dish was garlic-fried rice with a ribeye steak. According to the menu, the dish was categorized as “shime” or “last dish”. In Japanese dining culture, rice and noodle are often served in the last course. I was expecting something like traditional fried rice with small cubes of steak tossed in. Instead, however, it was more like a regular ribeye steak (with very little fat and had the texture/tenderness of filet mignon) served over a generous portion of fried rice. My friend and I really liked this choice, and both of us agreed to come back here sometime soon again – just to order this dish again.

There were also several varieties of Sake, Shochu and Japanese beers available to pair with delicious dishes. The very knowledgeable staff will guide you which beverage suites best to your choice of tapas.

http://teshigotoyanyc.wix.com/teshigotoya

Price: $120 including tip and several beverages for the two of us

Neighborhood: East Village

Dress code: Smart casual

Nice for date, small group, relatively quiet

Takeout: Yes