Tag Archives: sushi

Catch: Top Chef’s Hung Huynh’s new NYC Restaurant

7 Nov

As you all know very well (or should by now), Mike and I are total Top Chef sluts.  So when we were in search of a dinner location, we decided to try Top Chef’s Hung Huynh’s (Season 3 winner) new restaurant in Meatpacking.  Catch is a 3 floor restaurant, with the top floor dedicated to rooftop drinking.  It is owned by Mark Birnbaum (some of you will see this as funny as I do) and Eugene Remm and is the third restaurant in the EMM Group (the other 2 are Abe & Arthur’s and Lexington Brass) but I know them better as the owners of Tenjune (and many other night clubs).

The address is 21 Ninth Ave, but the entrance is actually around the corner on 13th street next to some construction and only identified by a C with an anchor above the door.  You feel lucky to have found it, then you get into a completely unidentified elevator bank where you look around for a sign.  You try to keep up appearances (after all, you are in the Meatpacking district), but deep down inside you can’t help but wonder why it’s so trendy to not tell people where to get into your business.  Lucky for us, someone else came in and immediately hit Floor 2… which opens up to a very modern, very Meatpacking space.

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I absolutely loved the weird fish in a suit on the menu cover.  Hipster? Sure! But it gave me a chuckle.  I immediately read the request for no flash photography, so apologies in advance for these dark iPhone photos!

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We started with oysters (I have been on a kick lately) and they were very good.  Not Imperial No. 9 good, but good.

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We then had The Catch Roll, which is crab, salmon, and miso honey… with just a touch of awesome.   The sweetness of the miso honey was absolutely perfect on the roll.

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There was nothing not to like about this. The textures, the flavors… it all came together perfectly.  I wanted to lick the miso honey off the plate but I refrained…

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Next up we tried the Macaroni and Lobster Cream.  You know everything about macaroni and cheese that is good in the world? This was all of that with lobster and a slight crunch on top.  It was heaven.

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We also tried the White Flatbread with clams, parmesan, and garlic.  This was good, but not great. If this was all I ate here, I would be disappointed.  It just wasn’t clammy enough.  The crust was nice and crispy, the garlic and cheese were good, but I was expecting more clam.

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For our entree, we split the Scallop & Cauliflower which came with pistacchio and tamarind brown butter.  This was one of the most unique scallops dishes I have ever had.  I love scallops, so I eat them a lot, but they get pretty basic.  They taste so good just simply seared, that they really don’t NEED anything else.  This was a very happy addition, however, as it added to the flavor without overpowering it.  Awesomely delicious.

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The dessert menu looked so scrumptious that we just had to try SOMETHING.

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So we opted for the peanut butter cup souffle.

When it came, the souffle was hot and domed (perfectly cooked) and then picked up what I think was ice cream off the plate and dropped it into the center.

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I was a bit worried about this, since really a souffle is good because of the texture, but this actually cooled it down so we could eat it and didn’t detract from the flavor.  I will say, however, that it is a souffle.  A peanut butter souffle.  I was hoping for a bit more chocolate in it.  It was still good.  But only if you like souffles (I like them… but I don’t LOVE them).

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What I did love, however, was the peanut butter popsicles (tasted like fantastic peanut butter gelato dipped in a hardened chocolate shell) and the little square chocolate cups filled with ground peanuts and what I think was peanut butter, sugar, and maybe some honey.  Scrum-diddly-umptuous.

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Overall, the food here was spectacular.  Very unique flavor combinations and artfully put together.

The one drawback, however, was our waiter.  He was everything that people hate about the Meatpacking district.  He was snooty, inattentive, and downright douchey.  He looked down his nose at us (I think because I was taking pictures) and made 0 effort to deliver even the most basic service.  For instance, he came to take orders from the tables around us on 3 separate occasions, all of whom sat after we did, each time barely spending a moment to put a “1 second” finger up towards us as he didn’t even make eye contact.  It took a good 30 minutes before he took our order, we somehow never got bread (pretty sure everyone else did), and when he came to finally take it, he made us feel as though we were entirely inconveniencing him.  It was a shame he was so bad since everything else was so good.

But the food was absolutely worth it.  It became obvious why Hung won Top Chef… his food tastes as good as it looks.

Total Nom Points: 8.5 out of 10

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Shumi Sushi: Somerville, NJ

18 Oct

I was in NJ to spend some time with my mom around my birthday.  We were on the hunt for somewhere local to eat in Somerville and she remembered a sushi restaurant that she had heard rave reviews about, Shumi.  I did some mobile research and this place had AMAZING reviews.  So we followed the directions and ended up… here…

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Hmmm.  That isn’t exactly the most inspiring place to get sushi, however, I was willing to try it and see how strip mall sushi was.

We started with miso soup.  I don’t LOVE miso soup.  It is usually a bit too bland, either totally under or over salted, and the texture of tofu is not my favorite.  This, on the other hand, was delicious.  Good flavor, good broth, and more than 2 chunks of tofu and a slice of carrot hanging around in the bowl.

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Next we ordered a special… Monkfish liver.  I had only had it once before and while I was skeptical about strip mall sushi, I decided I was going to go all the way.  This was awesome.  My mom couldn’t get past the idea of monkfish liver enough to enjoy it, but I just ate this up (very literally).  It was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and dressed.  Scrumptious.

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Even the salad that came with the emal was good.  The ginger dressing tasted much more fresh and anyone who dares to put a beet in my salad is a friend, in my opinion.

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We decided to go Omakase (chef chooses what he serves you).  I cannot remember for the life of me what the special things were, but I do remember Spanish mackerel and some kind of Japanese fluke I had never heard of.  Each bite was better than the last.  Fresh… filled with flavor… And even the rice was somehow special.

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I was absolutely impressed by this place.

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I would say this sushi rivaled many of the good (and much more expensive) sushi in NYC.  And this was in NJ… in a strip mall!  I have to start being less of a judgmental snob.

Total Nom Points: 8 out of 10

Blue Ribbon Sushi and Grill

9 Sep

One perk of my job is that I get to go on client dinners.  This supplements my expensive eating habits nicely.  Sometimes I wind up at places that are less than ideal (a recent trip to Dos Caminos left me in the prickly position of a waitress saying to me “there is NOTHING on the menu you can eat”… awesome) but sometimes I wind up trying awesome places like Blue Ribbon Sushi and Grill (on 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in the 6 Columbus Hotel).

I had been there once before, however, this time I was with a coworker who knew the manager and he knew EXACTLY what to order.

We started with the lamb chops, which was yummy.  It even converted someone who typically doesn’t like lamb.  Winner.

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It came over a delicious sweet potato puree.

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Next up we ordered the pork belly.

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It was a delicious slice of perfectly cook pork belly with a great balance of sweet and spicy veg on top.

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We also ordered pork and shrimp dumpings, both of which were good, but no better than most NY Dim Sum.

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They enjoyed an order of spicy ceviche. I’ll take their word for it that it was good.

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We also ordered the duck, which came with orange teriyaki, cauliflower puree, and asian broccoli.  The skin on this was so perfectly crisp and the meat was so well cooked it almost melted in your mouth.  One of the top duck dishes I have had.

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And then… heaven came out…

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This was Oxtail Fried Rice.  It came with daikon, shiitake, and bone marrow.  The bone marrow was actually tucked inside an egg pocket.  See it broken open in the picture below.

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This was unbelievable.  One of the best dishes I have ever had.  And it was rice.  The most delicious rice I have ever had!  I actually felt bad while eating this that Mike wasn’t enjoying it with me and look forward to bringing him back here soon just for this dish.  Add this to the list of dishes I will crave during bad days.  Om nom nom nom nom nom nom.

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Just in case that wasn’t enough food, a sushi tray made its entrance.  I won’t go into the specifics (since I don’t remember them anyway) but I can tell you that every piece was awesome.

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For dessert we got bread pudding and this made lovers out of haters.  It was insanely good, perfectly cooked, unbelievably tender and moist, and full of flavor.  YUM!

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We also got green tea chocolate lava cake.  Awesome.  Simply awesome.

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This was a fantastic meal.  Absolutely fantastic.  Knowing what to order is key.  I usually wouldn’t focus on the cooked food at a sushi restaurant, but don’t forget about the “Grill” part of their name.  It’s fantastic.

And that Oxtail Fried Rice… mmmmmmmmmmmmm

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Breckenridge, CO- Mountain Flying Fish

27 Jun

In June, we took a trip to Colorado where my aunt has set up a beautiful home in the middle of the mountains.  I had been searching around various review sites and had come up pretty short in terms of great restaurant recommendations in Summit County (which includes Frisco, Keystone, and Breckenridge).  Luckily, my aunt knew exactly where to go for her birthday dinner. 

And that is how we found ourselves at Mountain Flying Fish. A sushi restaurant in a land locked state? I was skeptical. But within a few minutes of sitting down, I knew we were in good hands. (I really shouldn’t have questioned it… my aunt lived and worked in Japan for a few years, so I have to trust her when it comes to Japanese food. )

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My aunt has known the owners, Tetsuo and Toshimi Shimoda, for years, so when she told them that we were coming for her birthday meal, we went Omakase style and let the chef surprise us with his selected dishes.

My aunt also recommended her favorite sake, Mu, which comes in a beautiful cobalt blue bottle.  It was probably the best sake I ever remember having.  YUM!

We started with burdock, which I have never had. This was delicious in a light sesame sauce and tasted somewhere in between asparagus and green beans.

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Then we had spinach with tofu. It was perfectly creamy… like a stiffer creamed spinach with more flavor.

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Our next dish was just about the most beautiful (and delicious) things I’ve ever had.  It was a calamari crab salad that included pieces of citrus, fresh yellow and red tomatoes, cucumbers, many types of seaweed, squash seeds, fresh calamari, crab, and a bit of curry (that was mild and delicious) with lettuce “cups” on the corner. The freshness of this was unbelievable.

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And it was as beautiful as it was tasty.

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We couldn’t get enough of it.

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Next was black cod over fried burdock sticks and sweet miso sauce. The salad was black seaweed was tofu.  

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Seeing as though it was miso black cod that turned me into a fish eater, I was thrilled to see this and even more thrilled to eat it. It even pleased my uncle’s palate, and he is not a fish person.

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Next came shrimp stuffed shitake mushrooms with okra.  This brought about the same reaction from everyone at the table: “Okra?” Turns out it tastes damn good when it’s cooked right.  And the shrimp stuffed mushrooms were bliss.

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Our next dish was sockeye salmon sushi and sashimi over a shiso leave with cilantro.  WOW. It is rare to have this amount of fresh flavors explode  in a dish. 

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The veggies made it taste so fresh and the sockeye salmon was holycrapgood.  I even developed quite the affinity for shiso leaf and will have to find it back here in NYC.

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The  tuna dragon roll came out next and, while I couldn’t have it due to the peppers, it was one of the most beautifully plated rolls I have ever seen. 

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Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this roll and I enjoyed looking at it.

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At this point in the meal I think we all took a breath and wondered how much more was coming. The table looked like a train wreck and was evident for how much we enjoyed.

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And then MORE came… a spider roll.  Mmmm I love spider rolls.  This was barely fried and had all the right flavors.

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It was at this point where my aunt said “uncle” and said we probably should stop eating. She made a request for a local Japanese favorite, white rice in green tea.  She said that only Japanese locals enjoy this dish, but she thought we would like it. She was right. It was a great warm end to the meal.

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But could it really be a birthday dinner without a cake? Green tea tiramisu soon marched out and was absolutely delicious. Delicate flavors with just the right consistency.  Yum!

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The owners were so kind and so warm to us, and served such great food.  They even agreed to pose for a photo-op.

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Overall, Mountain Flying Fish made its way into the top 10 meals I have ever had.  It was THAT good.  I was so impressed that this hidden gem was this good.  If you are in Breckenridge, you absolutely must go here.  Put yourself in the chef’s hands and you will not be sorry.  This beat pretty much every single Japanese/Sushi meal I have had even in NYC.  And I have eaten at some of the “best.” 

I can’t wait to go back.

Total Nom Points: 9 out of 10

Azuki Japanese Restaurant

31 Jan

My coworkers and I decided on Sushi for lunch one day, but my go-to sushi place is just a bit too far for a quick bite at lunch.  Someone found Azuki, which was close enough on 8th Ave between 36th and 37th Streets.

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The Bento Boxes seemed like a good deal, and I chose the Sashimi version.

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It looked beautiful… but it was bland. Bland. Bland. Bland.

Totally not worth it.

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The guys got a sushi sampler.  Nothing was outstanding and we all agreed it was perfectly average sushi.

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Overall, I can’t recommend this place.  Go the extra few blocks up to Kodama.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10


Ajisai

26 Jul

Mike mentioned that a pretty new Japanese place opened up close to our apartment on 9th Avenue (at 44th Street).   Upon first entering Ajisai, I fell in love with the ceiling (what is my obsession with ceiling decorations?)

We opted for a hot app: Chicken Lettuce wraps.  I’m used to assembling my own, but the wedge was quite different.  It didn’t work so well as a wrap, but the chicken part was absolutely delicious.  Perfectly seasoned and sauced.

For our entree, we did “Sushi for 2” which included 18 pieces of sushi plus a California Roll and a Dragon Roll.  It was SO fresh and SO delicious.  Really impressive for a random sushi restaurant.

Overall, this was a very good sushi restaurant and a welcome addition to Hell’s Kitchen.  The chicken was quite original and the sushi was fresh.  So it gets a thumbs up from me.  I just don’t know if it can replace my all-time favorite in the neighborhood… Kodama.  

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Kodama – Take 182

29 Mar

I’m typically not the type of diner who goes back to places multiple times, so the ones I frequent are a short list.  Kodama Sushi, however, remains my favorite affordable sushi joint in the city. It’s such an easy and delicious pre-theatre meal and you know you can be in and out quickly.  Hard to beat.  It also helps that it’s just a few short blocks away from where I live!  I’ve already written about it at greater length, so this will be short and just two quick pictures.

Go. You won’t regret it.

Times Square Sushi

23 Aug

There are an abundance of sushi restaurants in NYC, and a ton in Times Square, however, one always stands out as being VERY reasonable and VERY good: Kodama.  I have been there many, many times and it never disappoints.

This time, my mom and her boyfriend took Mike and I to this restaurant for my birthday.  We started with one of my favorite dishes there, the “friend” asparagus.  It is very, very lightly flash fried and comes with green tea salt for dipping. It is always a crowd pleaser.

Next up we got the shrimp shu mai (steamed dumplings).  So good.

We also ordered a lot of food for all of us to share.  It included the Black Dragon Roll which is shrimp tempora wrapped in eel (and something else that I’m blanking on).  We also ordered the sushi sampler with 8 assorted pieces of sushi, a tuna roll, and miso soup.  We also each ordered a fatty tuna sushi and a sea urchin.  The sea urchin is a sushi I struggle with.  I LOVE the taste but the gelatinous consistency is just a bit much for me.  I did enjoy it though.  The Black Dragon Roll was definitely the stand-out, however.

After we polished off that plate, we were still a bit hungry.  So we ordered a “Mets Roll” (eel with cucumber topped with avocado) and a Spider Roll (soft shell crab).  Both were sensational, though the Black Dragon was still the best.

The entire meal came to about $140, and all four of us left completely full with fresh fish.  Not too shabby for Times Square Sushi!

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10