Marea

240 Central Park SNew York, NY 10019 • (212) 582-5100 • marea-nyc.com

Poetry comes in many forms and at Marea, that form is fish, named after the stunning Tahitian island and for good reason, this place is stunning. Not so much from a décor perspective, although it is clean and elegant. The food, however, handily solidifies this as one of the top places to get your fish on in the city.

And oh boy is it on. Starting with the seared yellowtail, blistered carrots and potatoes. It is so ridic, I can’t even remember how to spell the other half of that word.

Also swoon-worthy is the lobster caprese, which is essentially as it sounds, in other words, really friggin’ good.

The octopus starter is also very good, but I did find it to be the least inventive of the three and not quite at the same caliber.

For entrees, I only had my one, but one is all it took. So good I’m glad I didn’t share. Perfection on a plate, although when I tell you the accompaniments you’re going to think I lost my marbles. Lettuce and pistachio. Yah! That’s it. How it could be so good can only be described in a word, magic. AKA butter.

Come dessert, this is my only caution, because there is a miss in the midst. The affagato is made with WAY too much coffee to the point where it throws the who thing off balance and basically tastes like a cup of coffee with cream in it. For true affagreatness, I recommend Fortina in Westchester and Stamford, CT. But fret not, dessert is not a total bust. Case in point, the donuts, warm, deep fried proof dipped in lemon crème and chocolate. Oh daddy!

Now for my only real gripes. The wine list, while decent is a bit pricey. And although I sincerely appreciate the wait staff’s sensitivity to hovering by letting us have our space, it is at the peril of attentiveness, because if you don’t ask for things your meal can easily turn into a seven-hour time vortex. Which brings up a very real dilemma, because as you know, I HUGE pet peeve of mine is being rushed out of a restaurant for turnover sake. But I guess my frustration lies somewhere in the middle. Can’t we find a happy medium?

That’s really it though. Marea is pretty perfect. No need to come off as one of those people who is so bored with life, they have to find shit to bitch about. So I’ll shut up now and you go to Marea.

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Kazu Nori

15 W 28th St. New York, NY 10001 • (347) 594-5940 • kazunorisushi.com

The concept of this place is Japanese minimalism at its finest. No host. One bar. One offering. Hand rolls. Okay, so they have other things, but not many. It’s really intended to be all about the hand rolls and let me just say, mission accomplished. And not the George W. Bush bullshit kind of accomplished that leads to a twenty-year war and occupancy. I mean done and done. Fresh fish. Crispy kelp. Booyah!

So here’s how it works; when you enter, walk to the outer corral and wait in the queue for a spot at the bar (maybe peruse a menu on the wall while you’re there). Once the number of seats at the bar opens for your party, you sit down and order either a set meal (e.g. 3pc, 5pc, etc.) or you can go a la carte. I went with the six piecer and there wasn’t a single miss. Toro, salmon, yellowtail, crab, bay scallop and lobster. All on point and priced pretty darn reasonably for Manhattan.

I think I’m in love.

Pink Sumo

4 Church Ln. Westport, CT 06880 • (203) 557-8080 • pinksumoct.com

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I’ve heard great things about Pink Sumo so I wanted to kick the tires on some of their more inventive dishes. Sadly, I found a lot of flats.

For starts, the “Special Lobster Roll” is very pricey and not very special, so put that money back in your IRA. The other dish that sounded great but proved lackluster was the Fiery Madal. It was neither fiery, nor madaly? It is, however made of lots of great stuff like red seabream cucumber, micro cilantro, black truffle oil and Sriracha, but for whatever reasons, none of that seamed to matter to my mouth.

After that, things got mildly better with the always reliable staple, the yellowtail sashimi with slices of jalapeno and yuzu sauce. The unagi was also a solid good, but I can’t honestly say I found the fish quality to be exemplary on either.

The only thing that I would go so far as to decree a Trumpian “great” would be the big league pepper tuna hand roll. I’m not sure if it was truly great though, or just great by association, but if I ever try Sumo again, this and the unagi will be my only repeats.

***Okay, so I went again, only this time I went omakase and Pink Sumo proved much better than round one. For $50 you get a ton of food and could probably split one between two people. The dishes are also very inventive along the way, ending on a boat of sashimi. And while this was a much better showing versus the last time, I still stand by what I said. The fish quality isn’t that impressive compared to places like Azuma and Koku over in Westchester. Also, the best thing from both rounds remains the black pepper tuna hand roll.

3 teeth

Beauty & Essex

3708 S Las Vegas Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89109 • (702) 737-0707 • beautyandessexlv.com

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Okay, so it’s not the real deal and merely a fabricated replica of the one in New York, but it is Vegas, which means pretty much everything is a fabricated replica of something else with the exception of sand. So put aside any delusions of authenticity and you will very likely find yourself as pleased as punch (let’s make that rum punch, after all, it is Vegas).

Located in the chic Cosmopolitan Hotel on the third floor (as opposed to Essex St. in Manhattan), you will find a pawnshop by the same name, which doubles as a speakeasy entrance through a nondescript turquoise door to the left of the counter. Upon entering you will find yourself swept into a time vortex landing you smack dab in the roaring twenties, complete with a brocade decor and twin, blond, 6-foot bombshell- flappers who cavort around the restaurant and bar along with a parade of burlesque hotties.

Surprisingly, this isn’t to distract you form the food, because almost everything was excellent. That said, it might be distracting to the servers, because I found the service to be a bit sloppy.

The excellent menu of which I speak is made up of shareable small plates, along with a decent list of cocktails and wine. And while most everything was good, there were a few dishes I would steer around such as the lobster roll, which was the only bad thing of the night, served on a warm bun, but filled with canned or even fake lobster meat. Not cool.

The other two dishes I would skip are not what I would call bad, but they don’t exactly pass mustard for me either. For example much better yellowtail sashimi in ponzu sauce with chili peppers can be found at Blue Ribbon Sushi in the very same hotel or at Sushi Roku down the strip. And the French Onion Soup Dumplings are nowhere near as good as the ones at Stanton Social in NYC, nor are they comparable to some of the other stars of the night.

But enough of the Debbie Downers and on to the stars, like both tartars- the steak and the tomato tartars are so good I don’t know which one I liked better and obviously very different from one another so it’s kind of hard to even compare them even though they are both “tartars.” They are also served differently, the steak is done more like a tartine and the tomato more like an hors d’oeuvres. Both, however, are worth doubling down on.

The bone marrow is also superb and only bested by one other dish for me, the Spicy Lamb Bolognese. Made with penne and some serious Italian game this pasta just might’ve been the best thing of the night- no, the best thing I had all week in Vegas. Not too shabby for twin, amazon, blond, bombshell, flappers. Can you tell they left an impression?

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

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

Kiwami

11920 Ventura Blvd. Studio City, CA 91604(818) 763-3910 • katsu-yagroup.com

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I definitely enjoyed Kiwami, after all, we are talking about a Katsu-Ya restaurant here people, one of the godfathers of modern sushi, but at the same time 4 and 5 stars seemed a tad steep when the only thing I had worthy of that much hype was the seared yellowtail with black truffles. Very expensive, but very generous on the truffles. Making it very worth taking out a second mortgage on your house.

Unfortunately nothing else reached the same bar though, falling somewhere between solid good and been there, done that. Not even the hanabe (spicy tuna on crispy rice) which he invented! It was a big snooze by comparison to the copy cats at Sushi Roku or Koi, which may not have been the originators of the dish, but have since created the Mercedes of hanabe to Kiwami’s Ford.

And speaking of Roku and Koi, both of them crush it on decor, service and saki selection. Whereas Kiwami seems like it is still stuck in the past, coasting on a glory far past it’s expiration date. But, to be fair, for Studio City sushi, it’s still a solid bet, no bones about it.

3 teeth

Sugarfish

1345 2nd St. Santa Monica, CA 90401 • (310) 393-3338 • sugarfishsushi.com
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Sugarfish is aptly named, because in the immortal words of Peter Griffin, the sushi is friggin’ sweet! Not a single miss in the Nozawa Trust Me, which is the biggest of three omakase-like options they offer. And they offer them at a ridiculously reasonable price. 35 bucks for seven courses of top notch sushi. Most places would charge you double or almost triple for the same or lesser fish quality.

Beyond fish so incredibly fresh you don’t even need your teeth to chew it, the other star is the rice. Served warm, unlike most other places, which actually winds up bringing out the flavors and aromas of the fish even more so. Just don’t ask for extra rice, unless you’re 11 years old or younger, otherwise they’ll turn you down as they did to one of my friends who asked. I’m assuming it’s because the chef doesn’t want people drowning his masterpieces with mounds of rice. I get it. A crime indeed.

Among the highs, the best salmon I’ve ever had. The best halibut. And the albacore belly was unbelievable.  On the nit side of the coin, the service is a bit slow, even though it was relatively empty because we ate at such an off hour, which I recommend since they don’t take reservations. Otherwise you could be in for a major wait if you go during the usual mealtime rush.

5 teeth

Nick San

Blvd. Marina lote 10 local 2 plaza de la Danza Cabo San Lucas, MX • (624) 14 324 91 • http://www.nicksan.com

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Clean modern décor. Friendly service. And best of all, a taste of Mexico, without the same old shit stuffed in a tortilla or taco shell. After all, you can only eat so many tacos, burritos, enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas before you realize it’s all the same ingredients just reshuffled around in different configurations.

So, this was a nice change of pace, without being a total departure from its roots. What I mean by that is that while Nick San is definitely Japanese, there is a Mexican twist on many dishes. For example, the Tuna Sashimi served on a tostada with avocado. It was excellent. Or the yellowtail served in a basil herb sauce that was light and refreshing. Or the baked lobster roll with mango. The yellowtail with Serrano peppers and yuzu sauce. Everything was great. And not just as an escape. If this place were in NYC, I’d happily go. Often.

4 teeth

15 East

15 E 15th St. New York, NY 10003 • (212) 647-0015 • 15eastrestaurant.com

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This is a hard one for me because I definitely enjoyed my meal, but there were also way too many missteps to overlook.

My first nit is the poached octopus. This was a touch slimy and much more than a touch flavorless. I have had better octopus at over two dozen places in the city. It doesn’t even deserve mention it’s so blah. But because it’s a review I’m mentioning it anyway. As Alanis would say “Isn’t it ironic?”

Another underwhelming app was the array of seaweed. It literally did nothing for me- wait, that’s a lie. It was pretty to look at.

But then came the omakase and oh my gosse was it good! The highlights being the wild yellowtail (epic)  and the scallop (sweet Jesus). The other pieces were good too, but not at the same level. That said, as wonderfully fresh as this fish was, I actually think Azuma in Harstdale, Westchester has fresher, better omakase for half the price. And yes, you can quote me on that.

And the flourless chocolate cake for dessert was a very solid good.

Service was a tad slow and sloppy- literally. Our waiter dropped the cap to our sake on the floor. And I watched as another server cleared a table, dripping yuzu sauce from one end of the dining room all the way to the other.

Décor is nice. But I had already been here in its former life as Tocqueville, so I was familiar with the sliver shaped room.

All in all, a good lunch, but I wouldn’t rush back.

3 teeth