The Atlantic Grill's Mike Lim on the Best Sushi Fish You've Never Heard Of and Growing Up in Malaysia

Mike Lim is behind the sushi bar at the Atlantic Grill.
Mike Lim is behind the sushi bar at the Atlantic Grill.

The Atlantic Grill (49 West 64th Street, 212-787-4663) opened exactly a week ago, with chef Chris Lim heading the kitchen and chef Mike Lim (no relation) in charge at the sushi bar.

Mike Lim has more than 20 years of sushi experience under his belt, including a long stint at Sushi of Gari. His sushi style is contemporary -- similar to that of his mentor, Gari's chef Sugio -- and includes maki rolls like one combining lobster, tempura banana, and shrimp, and one with kanpachi and kimchi.

We asked chef Lim all about contemporary sushi, underrated fish, and the hardest sushi technique to master.

Check back later in the day for the second half of the interview, in which Lim reveals his favorite Malaysian restaurant.

Where did you grow up and what is your first food memory?

I grew up in Malaysia. My first memory of food is street food.

Do you remember the first time you had sushi?

About 32 years ago in Malaysia. I didn't like it. I'd never eaten raw fish before.

What's the most difficult skill to master in sushi-making?

Getting the correct consistency of cooking rice. It depends on the season: The new crop needs less water.

Your sushi style seems contemporary rather than traditional, as in combinations like shrimp with romesco and marcona almond. How would you describe your style, and what's the best unexpected flavor combination you've come up with yet?

On our Chefs Selection at Atlantic Grill at Lincoln Center, where I dress the sushi with different homemade sauces. I recommend the omakase, where the guest gets a sampling of all five kinds.

Are there ways in which your style is different than chef Sugio's at Sushi of Gari?

I have a similar style but all sauces are my original creations.

There are lots of places around the city that try to do contemporary-style sushi, but with lesser-quality ingredients and not as much skill as Sushi of Gari. What's the worst contemporary sushi maki roll you've ever come across?

I only eat at reputable sushi restaurants and enjoy them all!

How does an ideal diner behave when sitting at the sushi bar?

Ideally the guest is excited about eating at the sushi bar. Some diners love to have conversations with sushi chef. What would you choose for your last meal?

Curry noodles.

What's your favorite sushi fish that not everyone knows about or is under-rated?

Tachiuo [belt fish or garfish]. It's like a flat eel, usually butter sautéed with soy sauce. Is there anything you wish you could serve but can't because it won't sell?

Hikarimono -- this is a kind of fish that is similar to sardines. Japanese love it, but Americans do not.


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