Walter Mencken 2 p.m., Aug. 22
Azuki Sushi: Chirashi and...Belgian Beer?!
As I've said before, I'm a big fan of chirashizushi. It's elegant in the way that only sushi seems able to be, yet satisfying like slurping up a big bowl of ramen. Perhaps it's the best of both worlds.....
Anyways, I popped in to Azuki Sushi in Banker's Hill for lunch and I was delighted to see chirashi on the menu. At $15, it wasn't the cheapest way to score a quick lunch, but the bowl proved to be of very high quality. There was a fairly generous portion of whtiefish, yellowtail, tuna, salmon, and grilled eel on top of sushi rice that had been seasoned with toasted sesame seeds and pickled ginger. The total bowl was put together very well. It showed just the right amount of restraint in that the rice hadn't been overdressed, but that it was flavorful enough that I could have eaten a huge bowl of rice alone. The fish was all very delicate, cut into pleasing shapes, and allowed to warm up a little bit before serving, a little touch that really matters in terms of flavor.
I had a cup of green that tasted as though it had been brewed at a nicely sub-boiling temperature--another example of judicious temperature controlling!
Had I wanted to pass on the green tea, however, I might have taken my pick from a short, but unexpectedly awesome, selection of Belgian beers. Might it be unorthodox to pair a Chimay Blue ($10) with fresh sushi? Perhaps, but I'll take one of my beloved Belgians over a Sapporo or Kirin any day. Neither of those readily available Japanese beers is particularly outstanding--though they are serviceable--and it's almost always smarter to drink sake or green tea with sushi. Still, I like beer and often end up drinking such at a sushi bar. Having a Belgian option might just be the new hotness!
Other lunch options included some four to five dollar rolls, a nigiri plate for $14, and a series of bento boxes (starting at $9.50) that came with salad, rice, miso soup, and the diner's choice of teriyaki.
My server managed to distinguish himself by acting with great courtesy. He was nearly onmi-present, though far from bothersome, and he made no move to usher me out the door when I (quite accidentally) stayed past the mid-day closing time.
I would like to return to Azuki in order to sample some of the "signature bites" that are featured on the menu like the halibut carpaccio ($9) or the honeymoon oyster ($10), as I suspect the sushi chefs will do justice to the combo of oyster, roe, and and quail egg that lots of places do, and few seem to do well.
For now, lunch at Azuki is served Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 2:00. Daily dinner service runs from 5 to 10 at night.
2321 Fifth Avenue