JeJu

Too Much of a Good Thing

In restaurant on 08/11/2009 at 7:12 am

To celebrate my birthday, we sojourned to Sachiko’s on Clinton on Saturday. Our sake friend mentioned this place’s product as on par with Masa, which I assumed was the benchmark for Japanese food in NYC. Sachiko apparently had the inside loop on the same quality imported fish, but at more reasonable prices. We had high expectations.

The LES is littered with tiny restaurants. We were venturing in to the far east of the LES, and there it is bodegas mixed with bistros, Euro pubs and art galleries. The peripheries of NYC are slowly being invaded by chic. We even happened upon a semi-secret restaurant in the end of a long alley which wanted to harken back to turn of the century American rustic fare and lifestyle. They have a members-only hunting club upstairs.

glamourpuss

Sachiko’s has been around for awhile. Our sake friend claimed it was her favorite place when she went several years ago, but she wasn’t vouching for it completely now. The story is Sachiko used to operate a restaurant in Japan with an original Japanese Iron Chef, moved to the U.S. and wanted to open a place but couldn’t find a decent sushi chef to work with. But here she is now, happily isolated from the Lil’ Tokyo of the Near LES. You don’t need reservations because it is never packed.

The interior is traditional sushi bar mixed with modern-style diner booths and a sexy dark wooden bar area at the front of the restaurant. You could easily mistake it for one of the handful of yuppie bars on the same street. We decided to sit in the back garden. The humidity had lifted at the end of the week, and it seemed more chill.

peekaboo

garden view from below

so hipster

Sachiko made a grand entrance, but not to greet us, just the regulars at the next table, bringing them an amuse bouse, or maybe they had ordered the omakase with a side of face time. She was slight, aging beautifully as Asians do, and polite, of course.

Our sake friend had told us their sake was good. There was some low grade $9 stuff, and then some $100 deals, prefaced with this philosophy:

crunch with a side of granola

We settled for a mini-carafe of a $30 Shimehari Tsuru (not made by Sudo) which was described as ‘reflects the flavor attributes most sought after, with a distinct character and freshness.’ It did, indeed.

rustic chic

In retrospect, we ordered the wrong items. Either the waitress gave us the tourist menu or we were too distracted with conversation, but more likely I should have browsed the website more in depth before showing up. We had asked for a sampler of the fancy sake, but were told there was none, even though it was offered on the website, with Japanese tapas on the side.

Our wannabe Italian friend took the waitress’ suggestion of the salmon appetizer. It came with its own bottle of ‘white’ Shiro soy sauce, a clear liquid. We all spritzed with glee.

White soy sauce: Soy sauce is made from wheat and soybeans. The specific ratio of wheat and soybeans and the fermentation process gives the different soy sauce character [color]. Among soy sauce products, white soy sauce has been manufactured with local wheat, soybeans and sea salt in the Mikawa region of central Japan. The origin goes back to an ancient Chinese culinary publication and also a relatively new Japanese cooking reference from the 18th century. White soy sauce was a condiment at a banquet for Commodore Perry. He came to the Bay of Tokyo to open the isolation door of the Tokugawa regime in 1853. Commodore Perry was the first American to taste white soy sauce. The Ninagawa family in the Mikawa region restored this white soy sauce, White Golden Tamari, a unique, unconventional flavor.

  1. Different flavor and functions from dark/black soy sauces.
  2. Clean, subtle flavor
  3. Savory taste, enhancing flavor
  4. No changing food’s original color
  5. Super congeniality with natural ingredients
  6. No GMO ingredients, No MSG added, No preservatives
  7. New seasoning to create flavors and natural presentation possibilities.”

salmon trinity

Our Korean friend ordered a marinated oyster appetizer which was rubbery and seemed straight out of a can. It also had a scary color and flavor.

outta da can, into the garbage?

The other half ordered the goma dofu, made from sesame seeds. The texture was very smooth but it was surprisingly springy, like Jell-O. The flavor was too subtle for a large crowd. I was disappointed they didn’t serve fresh wasabi. There was also a foie gras dofu which we should have tried.

dofu or jell-o

Also sampled were gobo chips, made from burdock root, a little drippy with grease, but had a mild crunch despite the impossibly thin slivers. The halfsie baby of the bunch was quite taken with this treat.

greasy floss

Now the main course. For me, I splurged on the sashimi omakase  (I realized in hindsight I meant to order the chef’s omakase, which would have been little tasting plates). I was expecting more homestyle cooking, but ended up wallowing in the tourist trap, hence the subsequent overdosing on massive, generous pieces of raw fish. If you never thought you could get sick of sashimi, try eating this order and then get back to me.

The highlight for the other half was the uni, bright orangish-yellow slivers of sea urchin. Described as ‘buttery’ and ‘unctuous’ by its fans, I found it to be overly fishy, briny, and slimy. It’s definitely an acquired taste that is too luxurious for me.

fish fry

From left to right: salmon, hamachi, squid roll with cucumber, fatty tuna, fluke, bonito (yes, it’s the one made into flakes), uni

Our Korean friend started chomping on the shiso leaves resting on the plate under the sashimi. I tried one: peppery, spicy, like licorice. The texture was rough sandpaper, 00 grade, like a kitten’s tongue. Blech. The effect is supposed to clean your palate, but unlike the nicotine-dulled one of my said friend, mine was overwhelmed. Also, I generally don’t like sharp flavors like licorice and clove.

The other half couldn’t resist ordering the hamachi collar. By this time we were stuffed so we sent this home as a doggy bag. Last night, we had it straight outta the fridge and man it was delicious, especially for a white flesh fish. We can’t get this stuff in Chinatown. The taste was complex and the flesh was soft, even in its frigid state. Sachiko definitely knows her fish.

hamachi wing

While I wouldn’t go back to this place to spend that kind of dough again, it did live up to expectations, though they weren’t the ones I had at the time. I still fantasize about this place in midtown where I was a guest one time, sitting on the tatami mats and looking with wide-eyed glee at the moist, appropriately-sized morsels of sashimi, each piece uniquely flavored and perfectly presented. I just can’t seem to remember the name of the restaurant.

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