Impressive array of fresh and often inventive raw fish combinations. Don't miss the "eggplant sandwich" ... More »
The "eggplant sandwich" at the new Kumo in Plainview puts diners on notice that this isn't just another suburban Japanese restaurant.
The construction is only marginally sandwich-like and involves much more than just eggplant, which is deep-fried and serves as a base for a layer of spicy lobster, another of spicy tuna and, finally, a draping of raw salmon. The warm batter-fried eggplant (crisp outside, silky within) contrasts with the spicy creamy seafood. The fish on top is cool and voluptuous. A drizzle of creamy piquant sauce on the plate offers an additional swipe of flavor and texture.
With food like this, it was no wonder I found Kumo packed on two weeknights. Strategically situated a few doors down from Fairway, the place beckons to observant shoppers, tempting them in for a lunch break or a night off from cooking.
The sushi chefs here look like they don't get a moment off. With knives flashing and a blowtorch flaring (to sear the surface of a piece of fish), the troop works energetically behind the counter.
One night, when a friend noticed sweet shrimp listed on the specials board, we ordered it as sushi. The pristinely fresh pieces were a bit large, piled atop rice and wrapped in seaweed. Two sushi standards - eel with cucumber and avocado and salmon with avocado - proved fresh and simple. I was less pleased with the salmon tiradito, a Peruvian-style dish of seared salmon that had been seared a bit too much, served with a cilantro sauce that tasted a bit pickled.
But the generous and artfully arranged chirashi was ideal, both in terms of its perfectly cooked rice and impeccable seafood - octopus, fluke, yellowtail, tuna, salmon, some exceptionally delicate mackerel. I hope Japanese restaurants such as this one will learn to leave off the surimi (imitation crab), which adds nothing to such a lovely arrangement. A sushi and sashimi platter was also fresh, plentiful and appealing.
Away from the spotlight, the kitchen staff creates its own buzz. An appetizer of three tender rib lamb chops glazed in a sweet teriyaki sauce had been cooked medium rare, precisely as specified. Miso black cod - an iconic dish born years ago at Nobu in Manhattan and ubiquitous in the modern Asian restaurant - virtually melted on the tongue. Another item in that same Nobu vernacular, rock shrimp tempura with spicy creamy sauce, was a bit soggy, which led me to believe it had lingered under a heat lamp instead of being served the moment sauce met just-fried shrimp. I got a sinus-clearing, eye-opening jolt from the wasabi shumai, steamed pork and shrimp dumplings that should be approached with caution and respect.
Of the two teriyaki dishes tasted, salmon, glazed with the sweet soy-based sauce, was the less appealing, having been overcooked. But tofu, slightly crisp on the outside and creamy within, was a compelling treat.
The menu at Kumo also catalogues the Japanese standards - tempura, sukyaki and noodle dishes - none of which tempted me. And while I could have concluded with ice cream, tempura-fried cheesecake or tempura-fried banana, I chose, instead, to sip some green tea.
Kumo Sushi is located at 18 Manetto Hill Mall, 516-681-8881, kumosushi.net