Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Asked and Answered: What else ya got?

Question: Sushi
Answer: Not around here

Knowing what to order in a restaurant in one thing. Knowing what you can order is something altogether different. Today's culinary question, posed by a colleague in from Wales, was whether there is any good sushi near the office. The office being in Morningside Heights, just down the block from Barnard and a church, the answer is an emphatic "no." The good sushi around here barely registers as mediocre elsewhere in the city and would totally damage my cred. I turned to an old favorite - Sushi of Gari.
The restaurant is small and the decor would fit in with almost any sushi joint opened in the past 15-20 years Sushi of Gari opened on the Upper East Side in 1997 and has not changed at all in the past 13 years. Two outposts have sprouted up in the past five years, one of which is simply named Gari and is on the West Side. Gari (without "Sushi of") is more focused on kitchen and less on sushi. This is important to note because the Sushi of Gari menu is does not represent the entirety of their offerings.
I was introduced to Sushi of Gari by my older sister and brother-in-law (though I think they were engaged at the time, but I digress). It is entirely possible that I was too young to truly appreciate the intricacies of this sushi. It was beyond my culinary comprehension at the time. The listing of rolls and sashimi pieces resembles almost any other sushi restaurant. Of course quality counts, and the fish here is excellent.
But, Sushi of Gari goes beyond the menu and, by posing the appropriate questions, you can elicit an entirely different menu from the waiter. Flash a little knowledge and the waitstaff is all too willing to share the special pieces. I have never eaten there without ordering the "tuna salad" piece, not to be confused with the tuna salad appetizer that is also not on the menu. The appetizer was discovered when my younger sister went for the first time and accidentally ordered that instead of the piece. The tuna salad piece is a nice sized slice of sashimi, on a sliver of lettuce with a little dressing and the tiniest bit of fried scallion on top. I get two every time, and refuse to share with someone who did not heed my advice and order one for herself. Also excellent is the red snapper with fried lotus root and pine nuts (pictured above). There are other variations on both the tuna (say, with creamy miso) and snapper (jalapeno, olé). Basically, if you are going to get sashimi, find out what they can do with it, then order that instead.

How good is Sushi of Gari? My older sister now has three children. Her first dinner after giving birth (while still in the hospital) - Sushi of Gari . Every time.

Sushi of Gari, 402 E. 78th Street (at First Avenue)

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