Fresh sushi done right in Glen Head. ... More »
The fish in my sushi-sashimi combo was as fresh and well-cut as I'd hoped it would be; the rice was of just the right temperature and texture. But what was a color-changing light cube doing in my shredded daikon, making everything on the platter glow red, then blue then green?
At Kiraku in Glen Head, both the sushi crew and the kitchen chefs are adept enough to stand on their own merits, forgoing the trendy gimmicks. That became apparent from the outset, when I sampled a few of the restaurant's baroque maki rolls. I especially liked the "Godzilla" (soft-shell crab, spicy tuna, salmon, cucumber, avocado and tempura flakes with roe), a nice combination of the warm and cool, soft and crunchy. The sweet-piquant Samurai (spicy crunchy tuna with salmon, caviar and plum miso sauce) worked well, too. While there was care and art involved in the prettily plated usuzuguri (thinly sliced with jalapeño and roe in ponzu sauce), a sushi-bar appetizer of yellowtail tartare (chopped fish mixed with onion and too much wasabi) was a harsh-flavored mound. When owner Kevin Zheng observed that nobody at our table was eating much of the dish, he removed it and said he would not charge us for it. When a restaurateur proactively tries to keep diners happy, they usually return.
From chef Jimmy Xu's kitchen came the Thai-inspired tom yum shrimp soup, a deep crimson and truly fiery bowlful. Black cod in miso sauce, de rigueur at most Asian-fusion restaurants, was meltingly sweet and delicate. A huge hit was the roasted duck salad, big meaty cubes of crisp-skinned poultry set atop field greens in a spicy-sweet plum dressing.
Our waitress had the forethought to ask how we wanted the beef negimaki cooked. "Medium well," said the fish-phobic member of our group who ordered it. I would have asked for it medium rare. Nonetheless, the thin strips of beef, wrapped around scallion stalks and glazed with a teriyaki-style sauce, came off as tender, juicy and full of flavor.
So, too, did the beef teriyaki, sliced steak drizzled with that same dark, sweet sauce. But chicken teriyaki turned out to be a bit dry, the strips of poultry pleasingly smoky but slightly singed on top. Much better was the spicy mango chicken, a stir-fry of chicken, fruit and vegetables that came across as more Malaysian than Japanese. Another spicy-sweet dish was crispy red snapper, the fish curled onto itself, as it would be if swimming. I had high hopes for the jumbo shrimp and sugar-snap peas in a spicy lemongrass sauce, but the dish turned out to be way too salty. Again, it was whisked away. I ordered a simple salmon and avocado roll as a replacement. It was faultless.
A dessert platter of fried banana and mochi (green tea and vanilla Japanese ice cream encased in rice flour dough) ended the meal on a sweet note.
On my way out, I couldn't help but notice that every table and tatami booth was occupied; there wasn't a seat to be had at the sushi bar. In a building that's been a virtual revolving door for restaurants, it's refreshing to come upon. --Reported by Joan Reminick.