Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sushi of Gari: The Big Apple

Over the holidays, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in New York City. Being the food Mecca that NYC is, I obviously had some serious grubbing planned. Armed with the vast resources of the internet at my disposal, as well as the specialized knowledge of one of my old time friends, Max, that resides in Manhattan, I was ready to see what “The City” was made of.

Having never had sushi in a major city, known for having great sushi restaurants, that was obviously very high on my priority list. New York has some of the best sushi restaurants in the country and likely the world. Max wanted to take me to Yasuda, known as one of the best in NYC, but it was closed over the holidays for renovation, so we ended up at Sushi of Gari. At Sushi of Gari, they take a non traditional approach to making sushi. Each piece is given different sauces and garnishes. While traditionalists may balk at this, any lover of food and sushi would quickly learn, that they are not out to play games. Their approach to sushi creation uses outside flavors to enhance the flavor and texture of the high quality fish. They meticulously match these flavors and when you sit for an Omakase meal, you are taken on a journey of elaborate flavors. There is no need to smother this sushi in soy, ginger, or wasabi. (Although they use real wasabi, not the common powdered wasabi you see at most sushi joints)

Obviously, Max and I were willing to put our trust in the hands of our sushi chef. We sat at the sushi bar and had a ridiculous Omakase meal. A word to the wise, if you plan to go for an Omakase sushi meal, especially in New York City, get an idea of the price tag or give the chef a range before you sit down. If you forget to do this, or don’t care, you will have to subject yourself to the mystery of what the final tab will be. And if you get intoxicated by high quality fish, you may just forget about the high tab you are running up. That happened to us, but it was definitely worth it.

The highlights of this meal were too numerous to mention. To be honest, I have forgotten many of the elaborate preparations and if I ever get the opportunity to return to Sushi of Gari for an omakase meal, I will certainly bring a pad and paper. Among the notables were the rare puffer fish(fugu). This infamous piece of fish, if cut wrong, can kill you. It was lightly cooked and had a mild flavor. Another favorite of the meal was the lobster nigiri. The kumamoto oysters were amazing and the foie gras nigiri with a small pineapple slice and brown, eel-like sauce, was amazingly rich and delicious. Although you wouldn’t expect foie at a sushi restaurant, this was one of the best foie preparations I have ever eaten and was not gimmicky at all. One interesting preparation was sea urchin (uni), wrapped in a green vegetable and tempura fried. We felt as though this preparation tried too hard to enhance the already rich uni flavor, diluting the taste of the uni in the process. While certainly an inventive take on uni, we would have preferred a more traditional uni arrangement. Also present in the omakase were several different preparations of tuna belly(toro), salmon, mackerel, snapper, and squid.

The experience at Sushi of Gari was unlike any I had ever had. It was great enjoying each meticulously made piece and wondering what would be handed to us next. The flavors and craft that went into this meal was of the highest level. I hope that I will get another opportunity to experience sushi of this caliber as it is truly the sweet nectar of life.
Salmon with roasted tomato
Seared Foie Gras with a pineapple slice and some tasty sauce
Puffer fish(Fugu)
Uni Fail(Wrapped in a green leaf and tempura fried)
Snapper with arugula, olive oil, pine nuts and a fried lotus flower root- demonstrating the attention to detail at Gari
Kumamoto oyster(unbelievable)

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