Newborn: Sushi Inoue
Despite its less than savory reputation, it’s because of Tinder that I was able to enjoy a preview of the delights (that would still be delightful full price) being prepared at Sushi Inoue, a restaurant with 14-seat sushi counter that opened this weekend on the ground floor of a newish condo building in Harlem. This is less neighborhood takeout sushi than an understated showcase for hyper-fresh seafood flown from Japan and prepared by Chef Shinichi Inoue, formerly of Michelin-starred Sushi Azabu (and app-introduced friend of a friend).
A la carte sushi and omakase (three levels ranging from $80 to $120) are both available. What follows is a sampling of what you might expect as part of the chef’s choice.
Amuses like a cherry tomato in gelee, tender nuggets of tako wasabi, and a jumbo pacific clam, large enough to be sliced into three bites and spiked with black pepper.
There’s something about being instructed “Don’t touch the head” that only makes you want to prod it more. Ten minutes on, the shrimp’s spindly legs and antennae were still moving with only the slightest provocation. While the sashimi was pristine, the squares of tomago stood out, sweet, with the texture of a burnished sponge cake rather than custardy. The chawanmushi topped with corn and two rounds of okra was smoky, from what, I’m not sure. Any morbid temptation to rip into the translucent flesh hidden in prawn’s shell was worth suppressing for its re-purposing as messy finger food in an intense mushroomy miso broth.
The sushi, compact and incorporating barely sweetened rice dabbed with wasabi, was the highlight despite my inability to recall every nuance (many pours of sweetish Junmai Daiginjo, “Dreams Come True” followed by Dassai Beyond, apparently good enough to serve Obama, didn’t help my memory). Four days later, and I can still taste the uni, creamy, almost like seawater emulsified with happiness. Probably because I ate two. My favorite, though, was the pink chevron-patterned nodoguro, sea bass barely seared and garnished with the tiniest dollop of yuzu kosho, a spicy paste of pickled green chiles and yuzu peel. Eel, octopus, scallops, otoro, what looked like mackerel but was actually shad, were all lovely too. Oh, and matcha cheesecake, accompanied by a round of “Happy Birthday” sung by the staff, just an hour before my day kicked in officially.
Sushi Inoue * 381 Lenox Ave., New York, NY