Sake
My friend Naoko was in town for a few weeks on business from Tokyo and we spent a lot of time together eating and drinking. We're so dangerous together- it's like we feed each other's food/drink addictions, we don't stop.

So Naoko knew a sushi chef at this new place called the Greenwich Grill in Tribeca, which I had never heard of before. I guess it just opened in April and is owned by some hotel company in Japan.

The main dining room is a sleek, romantic setup, but go downstairs for the super intimate 10-or-so seat bar, which is under a different name, Sushi Azabu. It's top secret! I didn't take a pic, but this space was exactly like a super high-end sushi bar in Japan. 2 men behind the counter in ties and little white hats. The fish box is hidden. Lots of wood. Lots of silence.

We were luckily the only ones there for our 7pm reservation, although I guess it's usually packed. There are times when you want a restaurant to be bustling, but this place is so tiny and refined, that it was nice to have Naoko and the sushi chef Toshi to myself (Toshi-san, incidentally worked across the street from Sushi Kuni for a year at another Japanese restaurant in little Cupertino. Small fucking world!).

Ok the meal: we went a la carte instead of Omakase. Not the cheapest option, but the only way to go at the sushi bar (I can NEVER afford to sit at the bar in NYC- the ordering gets out of hand). The best thing about sitting at the bar is flexibility within your meal and the intimacy with the person who is making it. Because you talk to the chef directly, you find out all sorts of stuff about what you're eating.

With that knowledge, the chef can create the ideal meal for you to your taste, piece by piece, so it all ends up being your little Omakase anyway. I also like just being able to call out what nigiri I want at the very moment I want it. Omakase, to me, doesn't allow for such flexibility these days cause the chef usually already has in his (rarely her) head what they will be serving in the set course- especially if he doesn't know you.

Sorry, long tangent. Here's the meal!

Junsai- neither Naoko nor I had heard of this before. It's a lake vegetable, served in a soupy vinegar concoction, like mozuku. My pics don't do it justice but they were really quite beautiful, these little green things. They were shaped like little silver jacks- remember those?


I believe this was grilled sawara collar. Am I wrong? It was light and fluffy. Sawara will be the default fish in all of these pics. That pink thing is pickled ginger- you're supposed to eat from the tip (which I did not do and was subsequently laughed at).


Bad picture, but this was the "Bakudan Natto" (explosive natto). This dish was a bit out of context at such a fancy restaurant, cause it was a total slimefest: natto, okra, quail egg, sashimi, atop rice. You're given pieces of seaweed to wrap this up yourself in a temaki style. Major comfort food.


Sashimi for 2:
Top left- maguro from Kyushu, under that is shima aji
Top right- a white fish called nibe, which I had never had before
Bottom left- mirugai, my favorite
Bottom right- kohada with battera konbu (the konbu was excellent)


Can we take a moment to pay respect to the finely julienned (is that the word?) daikon? Sliced BY HAND? Lots of places use a machine now, but being able to cut daikon into thread-like pieces takes days, months, years to master, and is a true artform.


At this point we had both had a few glasses of beer and had moved onto sake. We had a carafe of Tsukasa Botan and Kubota Manju. You'd think we would have asked for water or tea at this point, but I told you, Naoko and I don't stop. We ordered a BOTTLE of this next.

Azumaichi, I think is how it reads? It was full bodied but light, recommended to us as we approached sushitime.

Tosh-san served us some wonderful dishes ("otsumami") to complement the sakes we were drinking. Here is hamachi shiokara (marinated squid guts with fresh hamachi). Shiokara is one of my favorites, and will be a part of my Last Supper.


This was something very unusual: mentaiko jerky. Seriously, Toshi-san just hung up the mentaiko (spicy fish roe) to dry, then sliced it really thin. It was just genius. Mentaiko will also be at my Last Supper.


SushiTime! We just had Toshi-san make us 5 pieces of whatever he fancied (but definitely UNI!). Here it is in chronological order (very important).

Maguro

I didn't write this down but I'm going to call this out as aji.

Again, didn't write this down, but maybe sawara? Default fish.

Scallop with some salt sprinkled on top. Gorgeous!

Uni Porn Shot.

At this point sadly my camera batteries ran out. We were both stuffed (and wasted), but we ordered an ume-jiso maki (plum and shiso), as is my custom to end a sushi meal. It's my dessert!

The bill at the end of the night was crippling, but that had more to do with the sake, than the actual food. I seriously never get to partake in such fancy sushi meals so this was truly a special occasion. Naoko was the best partner!

Sushi Azabu
428 Greenwich Streets
between Laight & Vestry Streets
NYC
T: 212.274.0428


PS- You thought we were done there? No way! We walked up to Employees Only for a night cap. Told you, we're dangerous together!
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5 comments

  • Looks freaking amazing…I love how you roll!

    Sonja on

  • UNIiiiiii!!!!! I love uni!! I’m gonna make that pic my screensaver! This meal reminded me of parts of our kaiseki dinner in the Yamagata onsen. Those junsai — aren’t they like weird leaves in slimy pockets?

    ayagwa on

  • After trying to get there for a couple of months, we finally made it to Azabu for my 40th birthday dinner last night, spurred on in no small part by your post earlier this month! So thanks for the (subconscious) prodding.

    We went at about 7:30, no reservation, and were the first ones there. Sat at the counter, ordered the omakase with hot dishes – they also have a nigiri-only omakase – which came in at a reasonable $58 per person. We had the mozuku junsai, but in the middle of the meal rather than at the opening as we’ve had before; a nice appetizer of marinated sanma (Pacific saury), which was a bit like fish jerky; toro and tai sashimi; a grilled salmon collar; sushi, and probably some other things I’ve forgotten. Was a terrific meal and it’s definitely a place I’ll go to again, what with it being so close to where we live. I’d also like to try the upstairs restaurant, which looks like one of those ubiquitous Tokyo-style Italian places, complete with uni risotto, seaweed pasta and the like. The entire staff seems to be Japanese, too – the bartender even did the traditional “chip a big block to make a single ice cube” thing for our shochu rokku drinks.

    追放マーク on

  • hm. maybe it was a Lost in Translation moment and she just didn’t know how to explain it to me in english.

    can you get it at a grocery store in japan?

    kayoko on

  • I can’t believe your Japanese friend Naoko has never heard of Junsai. It’s nothing special in Japanese food.

    Anonymous on

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