15 East, NYC 3
August 23, 2010
We ordered a bottle of Wakatake Dai Ginjo sake and a bowl of chamame, which are particularly good here.
The seven course Chef’s Tasting Menu was described to us by our attentive waiter and we could not resist ordering it. This was not on a printed menu. We asked that one be printed or emailed for us; it was agreed, but never arrived. Expecting it, I did not take notes and so you will see that my descriptions are incomplete and I don’t include the Japanese names. This does not mean we were inattentive at the time; on the contrary we were concentrating on the food. As the evening progressed, it became increasingly difficult to hear and understand the descriptions spoken to us on presentation.
The amuse-gueule was a spoon of sweet corn velouté which really brought out the seasonal corn flavor.
The lovely first course included Santa Barbara sea urchin, octopus slow poached in sake with Japanese sea salt and a white fish I think was fluke with a slice of Sudachi.
The octopus had a lovely flavor and was tender. The sea urchin and the fish were good; the sudachi slice was excellent.
The second course was a large Seattle oyster cut into four pieces and served with a small bowl of ponzu sauce.
I have never understood the interest in Pacific oysters and found this one typically without the brininess which makes oysters from both shores of the North Atlantic so good. It needed the ponzu sauce.
The excellent and varied sashimi course included sea urchin from Chile, a shrimp, an orange clam, tuna and other very good fish.
The sea urchin must be from far south in Chile as it had a good cold water firmness lacking in the Santa Barbara uni. Creamy wasabi grated on sharkskin at tableside was served with the sashimi. The clam was a bit chewy, but with a lot of flavor.
At this point, we said that we would like to order another bottle of sake, similar to the first, which we had liked, but something different. A tray was brought with three bottles and two Burgundy glasses.
It was explained that these three sakes, from the same brewery, had just arrived from Japan. I tasted two of them and chose the one on the left, which had a rich, good flavor.
Next came a crispy course of charcoal grilled ayu, or sweetfish, including the well-grilled backbone, with cilantro vinaigrette and a little bowl of a julienned vegetable.
It was very good. As we were eating it a tempura shrimp head was brought; its crunchy cooking really brought out the shrimp flavor.
Homemade soft tofu was then presented with a warm broth with bonito flakes, scallions, grated ginger and soy sauce.
This was sort of a refreshing intermezzo.
The sushi course then started; there were three presentations of three sushi pieces in each one.
The first had three quite subtle white fish.
Sorry about the lack of names of the fish and the blurry photo; the candle on the table and the white plate confused my camera. The fish were all described to us. They were very nice, as was the rice.
The second included two quite different excellent tuna pieces, one wrapped in a shiso leaf.
The first piece was the absolute top quality. On serving we we shown a book with a diagram of a slice from the middle of a tuna and a description of from where our piece came. Kees, who has cut up just-caught whole Mediterranean tuna, recognized the features.
The third had two kinds of Japanese sea urchin and a piece of horse mackerel.
We were shown the sea urchin page in the book with identification of what we were having. We had now had sea urchin with four different origins in this meal, which was quite special. The one from Hokkaido was the best with strong flavor and firm texture. This was true also when Linda and I were in Japan in April. Surprisingly, I think that the Chilean, which I had never had before, was second best. The horse mackerel had a strong flavor to finish off the course.
A nice cup of green tea was served.
The dessert was an apricot soufflé on a pistachio cream.
We really enjoyed this meal. The ingredients were top quality and the seasoning well thought out and done. After my three weeks in Japan four months before, I was impressed that the chef was adhering to what seemed to be complete Japanese authenticity without concessions to New York. The service was superb, almost too much so, and the pace just right. I suppose I should learn how to say “Bravo” in Japanese.
To see the blogpost on our last meal at 15 East click here.