New American, Japanese, Sushi
Very good Japanese, sushi and New American fare in a glitzy blue-lit atmosphere.
Dinner six days, from 5 p.m. Lunch, Tuesday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m. Monday, lounge/restaurant "geisha night," when "ladies drink free 8-10 p.m.," with limited menu from 5 p.m. Weekend reservations recommended. Major credit cards accepted, except Discover.
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There is a velvet rope outside Nisen, the newly glitzified and bluely illuminated Japanese restaurant. Azure lights, in decapitated-Conehead style, accent the exterior. Inside: a sharp abstract "waterfall" in bamboo; a dimpled, moonscape wall; boldly backlit sushi-and-beverage bars; comfortably cozy, checkered booths; mid-room chairs suited for a futuristic airport lounge.
All of which means you won't mistake the joint for neighboring Quiznos - or anything else in this shopping center. What had been a comparatively modest spot has been pumped up and blinged out, nearly trumping the glittery visuals of Nisen in Woodbury. On "geisha Mondays," it turns clubby. Music abounds, cleverly calibrated. Volume rises each hour. Be prepared.
Sit at the sushi bar and watch a quintet of chefs methodically send out high-quality raw fish. Plenty of sushi rolls, with ingredients that include sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. But, for all the flash and upfront flavor, better choices are traditional nigirizushi and unadorned sashimi.
At the bar or at table, you could start with a soothing, creamy soybean soup. Contrast that with the peppery heat of a spicy seafood miso soup.
The kitchen veers New American with a savory, refreshing quartet of mini-tacos made with lobster and jalapeños, and tweaks tradition with vivid, spicy tuna dumplings. Sweet, miso black cod and velvety miso eggplant are reliable choices. Likewise, seaweed salad, teriyakis, udon noodles. Litchi sorbet is an agreeable dessert.
Sesame calamari and fried oysters leave an oily aftertaste, as do tonkatsu, the breaded pork cutlet and the vegetable tempura. The "funnel" cake Oreo translates into battered, deep-fried cookies - at least a misdemeanor.
THE BOTTOM LINE
"Overture, curtain, lights!"
Nisen is located at 5032 Jericho Tpke., Commack, 631-462-1000, nisensushi.com