Friday, March 19, 2010

"Live Sushi" at Sushi Uo

UPDATE: Seems like they have gotten rid of the sushi chef I liked and introduced some gimmicks, so I can't recommend the current incarnation, not having tried it.  If you go you are on your own, but if it's still good dop me a comment.

UPDATE take 12/2010: It's closed.

I had read here a while back about Sushi Uo serving up live sushi on Tuesday nights, so naturally I put it on my list of things to try.  Months later I still had not gotten around to going when I read this other piece about the ASPCA investigating the "live sushi" and I was reminded of the place so I hit it Tuesday night.  I had intended to have a light meal, trying the live items and a few other favorites (ie uni), but once I hit the sushi bar I, as usual, succumbed to temptation had them serve up the fullest omakase they were equipped to handle on a Tuesday.  I was not disappointed.  The place serves top notch fish at quite reasonable prices.
First, I should point out that the live sushi is not as crazy as the still moving tentacles of octopus on the plate in the videos you may have seen on Youtube (which I obviously still intend to try sometime).  Instead, I believe it simply means that the creature involved arrived live at the restaurant and was dispatched shortly before being served, and they were mollusks such as the aforementioned octopus, scallops, clams, abalone and the like.  Analogous to cooked to order live lobster perhaps.  I was drawn by the allure of the new to me live sushi, but I'll go back for the excellent regular menu.
I definitely recommend sitting at the sushi bar, which is always the way to go, but at this place more so because the chef, despite having worked at more formal places such as 15 East and Masa, is quite casual, friendly, and chatty.

The first course was a trio of amuses, charred live octopus, a refreshing seaweed salad, and Maine uni dressed with salmon roe.  The octopus had a nice texture and mild flavor accented by the char and I believe a little acidic dressing.  (It was a very small space and all the charring and grilling was done using a handheld torch, while the eel dishes were heated in a toaster oven.)  The uni was fantastic.  I have not ever knowingly had uni from Maine, and it was perfectly mild, creamy, and briny.

The next course was something new to the menu, a toro tartare atop grilled rice topped with a tempura egg yolk.  I inquired how they made the tempura egg yolk with out breaking it, and my query was answered with "very carefully".  The yolk was still molten inside such that you could break open the tempura and the yolk would flow over the toro.  In my picture you can barely see the grilled rice but it was a very important component of the dish, lending some nice texture and equally pleasant char flavor to each bite when you got a bit of everything.

The next dish was a richly flavored but still light clam soup.  In the spoon there were bits of "clam custard" which I was instructed I could use to enrich the soup.  I took that advice with some of them, and the others I just ate because they were delicious:

And here was the sashimi course:

Forgive my lack of memory, but my best recollection is, going around the perimeter: at the top is pen scallop, 1 o'clock was live (something?) clam, 5 o'clock fluke, 6 o'clock live octopus, 7 o'clock toro, 9 o'clock Japanese uni, 11 o'clock live red clam (in the abalone shell).  In the interior at 12 o'clock is hamachi, 1 o'clock bass (with seared skin), 3 o'clock ebi, 6 o'clock salmon, and 9 o'clock aji.  All were great, but my favorites were definitely 6 o'clock to 11 o'clock.  The salmon and the toro were both silky, the uni just as good as its earlier counterpart from Maine but perhaps a bit richer, the octopus mild and pleasantly meaty but not too chewy, and perhaps my favorite of all was the red clam, perhaps because I've not had it before.  It was almost like a very al dente pasta that tasted slightly of the sea.

Next came some courses from the kitchen, the first was Wasabi Gnocci with crispy salmon skin, in light lemon dill butter sauce with grated almond:

The gnocci were nice and light with a pleasant mild wasabi flavor, and the crispy skin provided nice textural counterpoint and extra richness.  I was starting to get pretty full so I went easy on this one, it was the raw items I came for.

Still full, I was tripped up by the next dish.  The gnocci were followed by Braised Boneless Short Ribs with fennel salad and parsnip puree (I'd already attacked this before I took the pic):

Unlike the gnocci, these were not light, but they were delicious.  Tender and beefy, with a rich sauce and richer silky puree underneath.  I had to try hard not to eat too much of this, because I had sushi yet to come.

As the finale was the sushi course where each piece was set before me one at a time, I didn't photograph them, nor can I recall them all, but they were superb, a couple of them were highlights of the night. I do recall an excellent scallop, the final bite was a fantastic morsel of eel, an probably my favorite was a piece of hamachi belly. I believe this was a new piece to me, and the chef informed me that there are only four pieces of this cut on each fish, and I got one of the four he had that night. It was to hamachi as toro is to tuna. I love toro. And I prefer hamachi to tuna. so you can imagine how much I enjoyed this.

In conclusion, I came for the novelty of the live items, but I've just added Sushi Uo to my list of go to Sushi joints for the future.

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