15 East, NYC 4
August 21, 2012
Blair and I went for an early dinner on July 30, 2012 to 15 East, which I have enjoyed three times before.
We were seated in a comfortable corner table near the entrance to the dining room through the sushi bar in front. The drinks menu arrived quickly. It has a wide variety, but we were just interested in the sakes. After a discussion with our charming, helpful waitress, she brought three bottles for us to taste. The first two (left to right) were very interesting with somewhat fruity tastes, but we thought that they would lose their interest after a glass and with food so we ordered a bottle of the third Yuki no Bosha “Yamahai” Junmai, which was drier and more conventional, but still interesting.
We ordered the Chef’s Tasting Menu, his choice of dishes. The courses were described to us as they were served, but they were complicated and used many Japanese words so we may be off on some of them below. Blair took notes while I took photographs. Only the octopus appears on the à la carte menu, so I don’t have formal course descriptions.
The amuse-gueule was a piece of taro stalk with plum miso and yuzu. A nice little start.
The next plate had four elements:
unagi: smoked fresh water eel on a gelée with pickled cucumber, excellent;
yama imo: mountain potato, quail egg and dashi in a little glass, okay;
tako yawarakani: small Spanish octopus slow-poached in sake, sea salt scraped from a kelp leaf; excellent;
a micro turnip from the nearby Greenmarket on a white purée of suzuki, sea bass.
Cold, thin, firm, freshly homemade soba noodles in bonito dashi topped with Santa Barbara sea urchin and a dab of fresh wasabi. Very good.
A sharkskin grater and a seven-year-old wasabi root were brought out; the freshly grated wasabi was served to us alongside a rich soy sauce. They accompanied a sashimi plate with hamachi (yellowtail or Japanese amberjack,) tai (snapper or sea bream,) kama (bluefin tuna collar) and isaki (gruntfish.) Under the ebi, or prawn, head were luscious, very fresh raw prawn bodies. When we had finished the sashimi on this plate, the head was taken away; a few moments later it reappeared as excellent tempura which really brought out the flavor and was a nice crunch after the softness of the sashimi.
We were finishing our bottle of sake. Our waitress brought two new bottles for us to taste. We ordered glasses of glasses of Kamoshibito Kuheiji Junmai Ginjo, the one on the left.
The next course included (left to right):
a cup of corn-miso broth;
suzuki, or sea bass, with midget corn and aromatics en papillote; the top photo shows the interior of the opened parchment papillote; the chunk of sea bass had acquired a richness and complexity of flavor;
a faux corn cob slice; Shinjo technique: corn kernels are placed around a faux-cob core made from puréed suzuki and shrimp, then deep fried; tasty and fun;
grilled small shishito peppers (the green behind the faux-corn) and a bowl with a wedge of lemon and seaweed salt, scraped off kelp.
Freshly cured ginger was brought for the sushi, but the wasabi and soy sauce served with the sashimi had been removed. There seemed to be no wasabi or soy on any of the sushi. The rice was quite sticky and vinegary.
Akami, a lean cut from a Spanish tuna.
Chu toro or medium tuna belly.
Saba, mackerel cured in sake lees vinegar.
Sea scallop with yuzu zest.
As our glasses of Kuheiji sake were running dry, our always attentive and genial waitress showed us a bottle of Tsukasabotan Senchu Hassaku Tokebetsu Junmai and filled new glasses, which stood in little lacquer boxes to catch the overflow.
Uni, sea urchin from Hokkaido on the left and from Kyushu on the right. The difference was remarkable. Hokkaido is Japan’s northernmost big island; the uni was firm with its flavor strong and definite. Kyushu is the southernmost big island; its uni was delicate, almost flabby in taste and texture.
Unagi, eel from Tokyo Bay with a vinegar reduction.
The pre-dessert was a cube of white peach sorbet; it cleansed the palate and set us up for the dessert.
The dessert was a wafer of sesame and brown sugar on a scoop of passion fruit sorbet, a scoop of sake ice cream with mint, grapes and cherries.
The mignardises, served in a lacquer bowl, come from Tocqueville, a French restaurant on the same block under the same ownership. They included crispy milk chocolate, chocolate truffles, madeleines and macarons. They were good, but seemed very out of place despite the pretty Japanese bowl.
Our evening was very enjoyable. The cuisine was always interesting with top quality ingredients. The service was exceptional; our two main waitresses always made us feel that they cared about us, our evening and our meal. The ambience is plain, but comfortable. Bravo.
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