Sushi — Plain or With Finesse?

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After searing some amazing tuna from <a href=”http://www.kleinsfish.com/” target=”_blank”> Klein’s, a fishmarket in Belmar, N.J., </a> on Sunday night, I was still craving raw fish. So my husband and I headed to <a href=”http://www.wasabichi.com/” target=”_blank”> Wasabi in Nyack. </a>

I’ve written a few stories about chef-owner Doug Chi Nguyen, so I’m often recognized. Because he wants me to know what he’s been up to, Doug will usually send out little tastes of dishes he’s been expermenting with. As a result, I don’t always get to order regular sushi — it’s dressed up with flourishes like the photo above, one of Doug’s best dishes: yellowtail-jalapeno.

This time, I slipped in unnoticed and got to order sushi — old-school style.

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Except for the scallop, which had a mayo-soy sauce on it, we shared a plate of clean, unadulterated sashimi. We didn’t even dip in soy. On the far right are two servings of uni (sea urchin) with a quail egg yolk on top. They’re served in a little stand of hollowed-out cucumber that works like a shot glass. Take the cucumber to your mouth and down the uni. It was as briny as the sea.

Also on the platter were two pieces of salmon (gorgeous), two pieces of ebi (shrimp, which I thought was supposed to be raw, but they were cooked) and two pieces of white toro (tuna belly). In the foreground is the scallop.

We were sitting at the sushi bar, which I like to do for a few reasons: 1. You can engage the sushi chef. Ask him what’s fresh, what he likes, and if there are any new dishes on (or off) the menu. 2. You can see the fish. All the fish is lined up in front of you, so you can see what’s available and what looks appealing to you. 3. The entertainment value. You get to watch dinner being made for the whole restaurant. Here, our sushi chef, Zen, was making a roll.

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Having satified our sashimi craving, my husband and I shared two of the fancypants sushi dishes — the yellowtail in the photo above, and a special, seared tuna with tomatoes.

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It was peppery enough to scratch your throat (a good thing) and the tomatoes were sweet with summer.

My husband likes to end with a hot dish, even in summer, so we shared two entrees. I know black cod with miso is ubquitious at this point, but I was in the mood for it. I love the musky overture and the texture, too…it’s cool how it breaks into chunks when you just touch it with a fork.

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And the baked sea scallops. They were cooked in a cream sauce with mushrooms. I was glad this was mostly my husband’s dish. Not because it wasn’t good — it was — but because it reminded me of an New England-style oyster stew and that says winter to me. I’m not ready for that yet.

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We were glad to have both kinds of sushi and cooked food, too. Sometimes you’re in the mood for the clean flavors and lovely textures of simple sashimi. Sometimes you want your sushi gussied up with fancy sauces and garnishes. And sometimes you just want oyster stew.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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