Find this creative bite at Rayuela
The tuna rellena ($14) is the one of the more inventive sushi dishes in New York and it isn’t even at one of the city’s many Japanese restaurants. It’s at the premier estillo libre Latino (freestyle Latino) restaurant of the Lower East Side–Rayuela. The tuna rellena is the restaurant’s signature dish–it’s survived two menu overhauls.
Surprisingly, Rayuela’s deconstructed avocado tuna roll (sans rice) doesn’t violate the restaurant’s theme of Latin-fushion. Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan, so soy sauce is a South American staple, an import of sorts. Rellena is a traditional dish of Chile and Peru, where baked dough is filled with meat and mashed potatoes and then deep fried. You won’t find any starch on this plate though–Rayuela has simply borrowed the word rellena, which is Spanish for stuffed.
And stuffed it is. Inside the silky sliced sashimi tuna is a generous helping of shrimp and crab held together with spicy chipotle aioli. But wait–there are still two more layers to get onto your fork before you can take the first bite. Underneath the tasty orb of seafood goodness is a pillowy-cushion of avocado mousse atop a thin veil of mandolined cucumbers–all floating in a shallow, chill soy sauce broth. Try not to drink it.
After the first bite, you will start to count the number of mouthfuls left so that the same complex flavors flow onto your palette with each bite. Don’t bother. You might even be tempted to give a piece to your now-hovering seatmate. Go the rude route and keep it for yourself–sharing will surely lead to regret.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 23, 2012