Hai Street Kitchen

230 Park Ave. New York, NY 10169 haistreetkitchen.com

HaiStreetKitchensushi

Have you ever found yourself eating a maki and thought, “hmm, if only this could be 20 times bigger? If the answer is yes, then you are about to go cuckoo for cocoa puffs, because that’s essentially the concept of Hai Street.

For example, the Slammin’ Salmon is not only fun to say, it’s also made with raw salmon tataki, rice, shredded carrots and cucumbers, gouchujong sauce and for two bucks extra wasabi guacamole, all wrapped in seaweed and cut in half so it looks like a pair of maki pieces gone preggers.

But is it any good you ask? Very. As is the lemonade and iced green tea, which I mixed to create, you guessed it, an Arnold Palmer. I’m so damn predictable.

3 teeth

Exit 4

153 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 241-1200exit4foodhall.com

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The concept of this place is interesting to say the least. Sort of like a mini food court that’s not located in a mall and not made up of your usual chains like Panda Express and Sbarro’s. It’s actually all locally sourced, serving up a jack-of-all-trades menu from all over the map (or more specifically all over Northern Westchseter), yet somehow they manage to let you put it all on one bill (that you kinda have to carry around with you from pavilion to pavilion- it’s complicated).

It’s also a dynamic than can easily become a recipe for disaster should you arrive and not know what you want. Especially with young kids who will quickly become more overwhelmed with the choices than Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson.

On the upside, most everything is surprisingly good, so it’s kinda hard to go too, too wrong, unless you have wildly high expectations. When I say “surprising,” however, I want to temper that by stating that I mean it only in the context of lowered expectations. Nothing will have you swinging from a star, but if you’d rather eat a pig, a fish or a mule, they pretty much have you covered (that was for all you Sinatra fans).

So here’s how I recommend playing it:

Step 1: Grab a table. Put your stuff down and have a member of your party stand guard. The last thing you want to do is get caught with seven trays of grub and nowhere to sit.

Step 2: Order the stuff that takes longer to make first. This would be your pastas, your pizzas, your burger and your bahn mi that are all cooked to order. Whereas the tacos, and barbecue offerings are much more prepped and take about two minutes or less to hit your table. So, assuming you like your family or friends, and want to actually eat “together,” then I recommend doing these options near the end of the batting order.

Step 3: Order stuff that doesn’t need to be ice cold or nice and hot dead last. This would be your sushi and glasses of red wine.

Step 4: Bon apetit!

So now that you’ve circumnavigated one of the more complex dining matrixes in the tri-state, here are my thoughts on the offerings themselves.

First up, let’s start with the sushi, sourced from Mt. Kisco Seafood down the street, so you know it’s pretty darn fresh. But more than just fresh, the sashimi bowls and the maki are really quite inventive and a step up from a lot of other places in the immediate vicinity. Yes, that goes for you Hito and Spoon.

Next up, let’s go Italian. Or more specifically the pizza, because the only pasta I’ve had there was my daughter’s kidsy butter and shells. So not really fair to judge them on that. My daughter, on the other hand, has a ways to go in terms of expanding the ole horizons. As for the pies, I liked both the fig, prosciutto and caramelized onion pie and the one with Brussels sprouts, smoked pancetta and gruyere. Neither compare to the likes of The Parlor in Dobbs or Zero Otto Nove in Armonk, but they hold their own handily against Old Stone and Village Social, which I actually think has one of the best pies in town. Nonetheless, the pizza is good enough to make you forget all about the fact that this place used to be Belizzi (RIP).

And now let’s take things down a notch. As in down South. As in TexMex and barbecue. Starting at the top, I’d go with the brisket sammy. It’s quite solid, topped with a bourbon sauce, slaw and cornichon. After that I’d go with the pulled pork. The sauce has a nice kick to it and it also comes with slaw on it as well. It’s not what I would call a runaway smash hit, but unless you’re willing to roll your bones all the way over to Portchester for Q, then it’ll do the trick. That said, little known secret- Dinosaur BBQ is available via Fresh direct. As is some seriously spicy slaw and brioche sliders. So if you don’t feel like venturing out for your barb-e-fix, then call in the reinforcements. Oh, and skip the tacos if you ask me. Truck and Hacienda are both miles better.

And most importantly… the booze. They have a nice selection of beer and wine by the glass so no complaints there either. Nor do I have many complaints on the whole. Exit 4 is a nice addition to the hood and the only other “something-for-everyone” deal in town apart from Village Social. So, if you’re like me and you’re saddled with two kids who don’t agree on anything when if comes to food, this “good enough” fare quickly becomes good on ya!

3 teeth

Minami

1118 Mainland Street Vancouver, BC CAN V6B 2T9 (604) 685-8080 minamirestaurant.com

Having heard people rave about the sushi in Vancouver I felt the need to see and taste for myself. Better than New York they said. Superior to LA and San Francisco they implored. They even went so far as to compare it to the likes of Nobu… Which turned out to be a big NoNo.

And thing is I knew it the moment I set foot in the door. Something about the vibe screamed amateur hour. And I’m not just saying that because the bar is slower than a turtle stuck in a tar pit filmed in hyper slow motion with a Phantom camera. In other words, we ordered our drinks well before any food and didn’t get them until after we were already three dishes into the meal.

Of the meal itself, I can only speak highly of one dish, which wasn’t even on anyone’s “must try” list, the yellowtail, spicy tuna roll. It had really good flavor and just the perfect amount of heat. I know it sounds relatively standard, but I’m trying here people. I’m trying so hard to see it, but all I kept seeing was a place that’s no better than virtually any neighborhood sushi joint in Manhattan.

The foie gras, black truffle gyoza, while amazing on paper tasted no different than your garden variety chicken potsticker. The salmon oshe (pictured) was way too overpowered by the brick of rice beneath it and it’s nothing by comparison to the pseudo equivalent, hanabe, of LA fame. Oh, and the ebi version of the oshe isn’t any better.

The tuna tataki with black pepper was a snore and sushi and sashimi platters were all decent, but again, nothing you would ever even dare think to compare to the likes of New York or LA. In fact, the only fish in the lot that sparked a twinkle in my eye was the albacore sashimi. But let’s forget New York and LA for just a second and get really real up in this bitch. I’ve had far better sushi in Harstdale, NY at Azuma. In Breckenridge, CO at Sushi Breck. At that’s in a friggin’ land-locked state for Christ’s sake! Even at Blue Ribbon in Vegas, which is in a godforsaken dessert!

So I don’t know what everyone else is smoking out there, but please pass it my way, because I just don’t taste what you are tasting.

2 teeth

Waka

95 King St. Chappaqua, NY 10514 • (914) 861-2727 • wakafusion.com

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I have only actually been there once, so most of this review is based on delivery, which I have done about fifty times. Usually for sushi, although this last time I tapped into their pan Asian offerings and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on the Chinese. Thai not-so much.

But first let’s get back to the basics. The décor is contemporary and clean. Service is warm and friendly, with that local, small-business vibe about it.

And as for the sushi, it’s pretty impressive by delivery standards. I honestly don’t think we have better sushi delivery in Northern Westchester. In fact, when we lived in the city we didn’t even have better fish. Which is really what makes Waka shine. They seem to always get extremely fresh tuna, salmon and yellowtail. Eel is cooked so it doesn’t count.

They also have a ton of inventive rolls, but freshness is obviously the true measure of a Japanese restaurant. You can always hide sub-par fish beneath a gaggle of maki companions and still make it taste good.

So apart from Azuma in Hartsdale (haven’t tried Nanase yet), there’s none better in the burbs.

And to think that they can pull off Chinese well too? Two hats off. The Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce was on point and so was the crispy shrimp with pineapple. Haven’t ventured into their lo mein as of yet. Or any of the other Chinese, staples, but I will, so stay tuned.

Unfortunately they fall WAY short of the trifecta, however. Their Thai needs some serious help. Both the pad Thai and red curry beef tasted like the cardboard partition they stick in the delivery bag.

But please don’t let that discourage you from giving them a try, after all, doing two things well is still mighty hard. Heck, Michael Jordan couldn’t even do it!

3 teeth

Blue Ribbon Sushi

The Cosmopolitan Hotel • 3708 Las Vegas Blvd S. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 698-7000 · blueribbonrestaurants.com
 
Blue Ribbon Izakaya

The fact that it’s located in the Cosmopolitan Hotel is definitely a plus. It’s the most tastefully done Casino in Vegas. Granted the competition isn’t exactly what one would call steep, but it does make your journey both to and from the restaurant much more seamless by comparison to something like Aureole, where you are in a beautiful setting inside the restaurant, but then the moment you set foot outside, you feel like you just stepped into the middle of a pissing match between Walt Disney and Donald Trump.

So, now that I’ve drifted way off topic and evoked a bodily fluid, I’m sure most of you are no longer reading this. But for those who still are, Blue Ribbon is awesome! Better than the one in New York on a number of metrics. The first being décor. I know, shocking that Vegas could outdo anywhere on aesthetics, much less New York, but it outdone it was.

And the outdoing kept doing from start to finish. The first thing being the open-faced Wagyu sliders. Perfectly cooked and a great way to offset your Vegas drinking bender. Another solid starter was the duck potsicker app. Also nice and substantive compared to the sushi side of the equation.

And last but not least, the grilled octopus started, which was also good, but definitely the weakest of the three.

Then came the main event. The Blue Ribbon as they called it. No, not the Blue Ribbon maki, which is lobster and caviar, the Blue Ribbon chef’s tasting- aka plank of awesome. Apparently inventive naming things isn’t their strong suit, but let me tell you, most of what was on that platter was. Covered with inventive maki, artfully brined sushi pieces and blissfully fresh (yes, in a dessert) sashimi.

Even the service was better than the Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York, which got me thinking, maybe they should move the Vegas one to New York and the New York one to Vegas. Thoughts?

4 teeth