Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Sushi Problem New York City Entry #81 Sushi Seki

I have a sushi problem. I am a promiscuous sushi eater. I consume sushi from the supermarket with as much relish as sushi from a four-star Tokyo restaurant (say, Kozue, at which I recently dined). Raw fish is like chips; I can't stop with one. And perhaps I am tone-deaf when it comes to maki and sashimi. It's all good. Soy, no soy. Wasabi from a tube or chopped fresh. Ginger fresh or preserved. It's one big happy deal.

Thus, when I say that I really enjoyed my sushi platter at Sushi Seki, the busy, late-night fish emporium on the Upper East Side, let the buyer beware. Sushi Seki has more of the flavor of First Avenue than a Kyoto teahouse, and its noise may put off those who desire the quiet elegance of Sushi Yasuda. But the meal is fine.

We began with an order of Shumai (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings), in which the dumpling was lighter and more impressive than the somewhat ordinary shrimp inside (I am not tone-deaf on the dumpling front). We also started with a delightful snow pea salad: a haystack of snowpeas in an assertive soy-garlic-onion sauce.

But the main course was Seki's Original Special Recipe Sushi Platter. I can recommend the raw fish, the rolls, and the more intriguing chef-designed creations. Among the latter, I found a ethereal pile of snow crab wrapped in nori, a tomato and salmon sushi combo, and a toro tartare particularly memorable. The fish was, I recognize, several steps above that to be found at the Food Emporium. The maki rolls: avocado, salmon, and shrimp were all delicious, but only slightly more delicious than many rolls of my memory. Perhaps the two pieces that I will most treasure were a perfectly fresh, slightly sweet raw scallop and a breezy and herbal eggplant. Bass, red snapper, and salmon both hit the right note. I particularly admired the touches that made these bites special and visually startling, a tiny band of jalapeno, for instance.

New York is fortunate to have a sushi culture: from Brighton Beach to Gristede's, and I am fortunate to indulge. True, my skills need to be sharpened to be able to distinguish among remarkably fresh fish, very fresh fish, fresh fish, and catfood, but it is an effort well-worth making, and Sushi Seki is a location well-worth the effort.

Sushi Seki
1143 First Avenue (at 63rd Street)
Manhattan (Upper East Side)

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