What comes in a wooden box and is supremely delectable?
Run your eye down the extensive sushi menu at Hasaki, and you’ll find many interesting oddities and combinations. At the end of the omakase list, for example, is a $45 combo called Edo-mae Sushi.
“Just a minute,” you interject. “Isn’t all nigiri sushi based on the Edo-mae style?” This is undoubtedly true. Edo-mae means “View of Tokyo,” designating sushi made in the city or its immediate vicinity. So how could it be different from the regular nigiri sushi that occurs elsewhere on the menu?
To solve this mystery, Fork in the Road ordered it. The Edo-mae sushi arrived in a blond lacquered wooden box, nine perfect pieces in the nigiri style, plus a pickled kelp single-ingredient maki roll, and, quite strangely, instead of rectangles of omelet — two pieces of something like pound cake.
As if the cake weren’t unusual enough, there were some things untypical of most nigiri sushi assortments. The pieces of fish were about the same size, but the lozenges of vinegared rice were emphatically smaller and more manageable. And, as the waitress warned us as she served it, the proper amount of mirasaki (sushi-speak for soy sauce) had already been applied to each piece, so Don’t Dip. Wasabi has also been applied as necessary, and not very much.
The assortment, typical for a nice omakase for one, included creamy urchin, mid-fatty tuna seared on the side, big clam, octopus, sea eel, and sardine. It was a spectacular grouping, and one of the most satisfying sushi dinners this blog has experienced in a long time.
Stray sushi facts: In traditional Tokyo sushi bars, the fish isn’t usually displayed in glass cases. The customers know what fish to order, and the itamae (sushi master) is willing to push the stuff that is tastiest and freshest. If you’re a regular, he knows your preferences.
So how does our assortment constitute Edo-mae? It represents a certain high standard in sushi preparation, without many of the liberties we allow ourselves with the usual sushi assortment eaten in an all-purpose American Japanese restaurant. It’s like what you’d get in a good sushi bar in Japan, and how it would be served. It’s also like a meal prepared by a sushi master who knows you. In short, it represents a distinct sushi point of view. More important, each and every piece is spectacular.
201 East 9th Street
The sushi masters at work at Hasaki
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 23, 2012