Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Azuki Sushi: The fifth app.
The most expensive appetizer in happy hour is worth all six bucks
First thing to do here is look at the front door.
Look close. It is a pane of glass squishing a solid wall of reddish beans. Azuki beans. Most people rush in without even noticing. I only see them because there are so many customers crowding in to happy hour that I had a moment to look at it up close.
To be brutally honest, I had never heard of azuki beans. But Misaki the server...
...who finds me at a front patio table, says they're popular beans in Japan, mostly for making desserts. Their red color is auspicious and they're considered good luck to have at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries.
I spotted Azuki from the #3 bus, hauling up Fifth Avenue around six in the evening. Right across from the Salvation Army's divisional headquarters, is this little brick-red cottage with a small planky patio and just a couple of tables on the street.
Last time I entered this li'l ol' cottage was when it was a Polish place, but that has to be more than four years ago, because Misaki says that's how long Azuki has been going.
So I get inside and start looking for a spot at the long sushi counter that runs down the right side of this main room. Problem: it's almost full, and the free seats are reserved. Five sushi chefs are working full bore.
So where to sit? There's a room out back, empty, but as soon as I get there, I see why. It's hotter than Hades back there. No A/C. Luckily I find a spot in the patio on Fifth.
Happy hour, the thing that got me heading here in the first place (sandwich board on the street says they have it 5:00 to 6:30 Monday to Saturday) doesn't have a huge selection. And honestly four of the five dishes didn't really turn me on. They have garlic edamame ($3), shishito (bonito flakes with soy sauce, $3), seaweed salad ($4), and root vegetable fries ($5).
But the fifth looks interesting for this country boy: spicy albacore tataki ($6). Happen to know "tataki" means seared. So we're talking slices of raw tuna with its outside lightly seared. They have a pint of draft Sapporo going for $3 too. Deal. Although just after I order it, I see the hot sake going for $5.
Dang. But turns out, no biggy. Misaki brings a little jug of soy, and the green wasabi and ginger plate. But she says I shouldn't need it. "The albacore slices have a spicy ponzu and jalapeño sauce. It should be enough."
The other nice touch? Shiso. Tiny little mint-tasting green and purple leaves on top of the tuna. Like, micro-veggies.
Bottom line: it's tender fresh, tasty. And with the beer, a good snack for nine bucks all in. And no, you don't need the soy.
The one thing I'd like to try now is a dessert made from some of those beans squished in the front door.
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