Oko Kitchen

6 Wilton RdWestport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8404 • okokitchen.com

If you love The Cottage than you will, um, really struggle to like this place as much. As The Whelk is to Kawa Ni, they are sister restaurants, linked by the same chef, who, definitely upped the sushi game in Westport without a doubt. But if you’re going in with expectations that it is The Cottage in Japanese form, you will be disappointed.

Appropriately starting with the starters, I found the attempt at inventive edamame to be noble, yet messy and nowhere near as good as the ones at Koku in Armonk. Jazzed up with garlic, soy butter, gomashio (sesame salt) and shio kombu (a form of dashi). But net, net it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance without a lot of flavor.

Same goes for the shishito peppers, although the slightly better of the two, made novel with chickpea miso, guanciale and shoyu-koji (soy sauce).

For small plates, Oko didn’t wow much either. The deviled eggs with pork belly being the least wowiest and a far cry from two other versions in Westport alone- both Rothbard and The Whelk making far superior versions.

The sticky ribs fared much better, sauced with smoked maple, gochujang and sesame crunch. But the real winner of the smalls is the miso black cod, or as they call it “Torched Black Cod.” It’s cedar grilled and done in a madieira shoyu glaze with shitake and scallion and it…is…killer! As good as the one at Matsuisha in LA, the place that invented the dish.

But what about the friggin’ sushi? Okay, I get it. After all, it is a sushi joint, right? So, long story longer, it’s very good. The fish is fresh and the preparations are inventive without being gimmicky, for the most part- the one exception being the foie gras, which shockingly I would forego and just follow the omakase. Oh, and great news, this is more like it is in fine sushi restaurants in Japan, where you don’t even use or need soy sauce or wasabi, because the preparation is so wonderful on its own.

Speaking of wonderful, come dessert, you have to try the- okay, bare with me on this one… The soft serve. I know! What am I, like five years old?! But I’m not joking here. They take Dairy Queen’s invention to another level. Especially with the friggin’ Oko crunch!!! I mean, other than the miso cod it might’ve been the best thing we had. And that’s not just the killer gin cocktail talking (yes, they also have a killer gin cocktail).

It’s no Cottage, but Oko is definitely a strong three knives and the best Japanese in town. Give it a few more weeks to iron out the kinks and I’d imagine it will be a four or five.

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Fuku

163 1st AveNew York, NY 10003 • eatfuku.com

Normally I’m a pretty big David Chang fan, but Fuku is definitely missing the Momo mojo. The concept is fried chicken. In sandwiches, fingers and bites, with various builds in between. I went with the Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich and despite the pickles and supposed habanero, it’s hopelessly bland. In fact, I emptied an entire ramekin of Saam Sauce (David’s answer to Sriracha) just to make it worth eating.

For those of you thinking, but Ferocious, it’s figgin’ chicken, how much flavor can you expect?! MUCH more. Just try the one at Son of a Gun and R+D Kitchen, both in LA. I realize neither are very convenient for a New Yorker, but if you’re ever out that way, my case rests in the City of Angels.

The bites are in the same bland boat, so let’s not waste your precious time reading about these balls of blandness either.

There is a silver lining on the TryCaviar menu however, should you choose to ignore my advice. The salad. Yes, salad. It’s a kale base, loaded with broccoli, shishito peppers and edemame peas. It’s the bomb.

And speaking of explosions, the Compost Cookie is always a strong go-to. Granted I feel like it’s not quite as good as the ones at Milk Bar. And even if it were, my advice to you, if you’re ordering on the aforementioned TryCaviar, get your cookies Dominique Ansel Bakery instead. You’ll thank me.

Koku

454 Main StArmonk, NY 10504 • (914) 730-0077 • kokujapanese.com

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I am sad to have only just discovered this place right as I was moving away from a reasonable proximity, but happy to have at least had a meal there before I departed, because hot damn is it good!

The fish isn’t quite at the level of Azuma, but it is far more inventive and the setting is probably the best of any sushi joint in Northern Westchester. Hell, even the website is more blows the aesthetic doors off of the competition. Service was also great, and quite warm and friendly with a killer recommendation on a special dish consisting of a fish we had never even heard of before (and struggled feebly to pronounce), coming straight from the one and only Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Best thing we had. No surprise.

My second favorite dish was the spicy tuna tacos. Though I gotta say, the whole mexi-sushi thing is getting a bit overplayed right now to the point of annoyance, but when it’s this good, I find it hard to bitch. Okay, no I don’t. I love to bitch. But not about these tacos. They do both mexipanese prouder than Senora Tiger Mom.

A very close third, but less inventive than the other dishes we tried were the salmon skin hand rolls and the unagi. Great flavor in the eel sauce and just awesome texture and saltiness in the handrolls- as good as any I’ve ever had.

Surprisingly, however, one of the most touted dishes of all at this place was a bit of a disappointment for wifey and I. The spicy edamame is not only messy as all hell, but it’s also not very spicy, making the humiliation to worth-it ratio very unfavorable.

What is in favor is the whole package because Koku makes almost every other sushi joint in Northern Westchester look like amateur hour.

4 teeth

Nare Sushi

115 E 57th St. New York, NY 10022(646) 666-0061naresushi.com

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I only ordered take out from here based on the recommendations on Yelp, my craving for sushi and my desire to try someplace other than Hatsuhana, which I already know and love. Plus, I was intrigued by the Mozukusu, described as fresh caught seaweed with sweet soy and Japanese mountain yam. The “fresh caught” seeming to imply that the seaweed must try to escape in some fashion. I’m not exactly sure how, but I had to see for myself.

Sadly, the seaweed wasn’t flopping around like marlin on the line, but I do have to admit that it was the most interesting seaweed salad I think I have ever had. Granted it was also the goopiest, looking like something out of Ghostbusters. But if you just close your eyes and can work past the consistency, the flavors are really nice.

I wish I could say the same for the fluke sashimi (Usuzukuri), but I found it rather bland despite the ponzu sauce and spicy daikon radish.

And as for the edamame, yellowtail and tuna sushi, as well as the dragon roll, they were all reasonably good, but nothing beyond the expectations of your run of the mill NYC delivery sushi, making the four stars on Yelp seem a bit much by my ferocious standards.

3 teeth

Asiate

Mandarin Oriental 80 Columbus Circle New York, NY 10023(212) 805-8881http://www.mandarinoriental.com

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The view alone is worth the visit, but the food doesn’t disappoint either. Well, for the most part.

The wife and I had the brunch tasting menu comprised of 4 appetizers, two mains and two desserts. Of the apps, the ahi tuna and the butternut squash soup were both a tad on the blah side. The foie gras terrine and the edamame empeñada were much better.

The stand outs, came during the mains. All four were excellent. I went breakfasty, if that’s a word, with the caramelized banana french toast and the BLT and egg. While the wife went more lunchy, choosing the sweet potato ravioli with market veggies and the striped sea bass. I honestly can’t tell which of the four was the best, they were all that excellent.

Then, came dessert, a chocolate mousse and an apple cake. Both, unfortunately were lack luster, ending us on a down note.

That is, until you stop by the treat station on the way out, where you can load up on goodies to take home. And just like that, all was right with the world again.

4 teeth

Takumi Taco

27 N 6th St. New York, NY 11211(917) 710-4757takumitaco.com

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I’ve only eaten at their stand at Madison eats, so don’t hold me accountable for things like décor and service.

The food, however, is pretty, pretty tasty (to be read like Larry David). I ordered the Bento Box which came with my choice of two Asian inspired tacos a side salad and my choice of side. As a result, I went with the Spicy Tuna and Short Rib tacos and the Charred Corn side.

Of my choices I went 2 for 3. The Spicy Tuna is very good, served in a rice-based taco shell.

The charred corn was also a solid good, mixed with edamame peas, chives and peppers, then tossed in an Asian vinaigrette.

The short rib taco, however was extremely dry, necessitating a healthy dose of Sriracha to bring it back from the dead.

And the side salad really isn’t even worth mentioning. That said, the Japanese Arnold Palmer is. Done with a very nice floral green tea.

Looking forward to another box, sans short rib, of course.

3 teeth