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Sea Cliff: 2 new restaurants

Musu is a new Japanese restaurant in Sea

Musu is a new Japanese restaurant in Sea Cliff that takes over the space formerly occupied by Once Upon a Moose. (Aug. 17, 2012) Credit: Newsday Erica Marcus

A recent drive through Sea Cliff unearthed two promising new spots. First up, Musu, a sushi restaurant in the corner location that, for decades, housed Once Upon a Moose (and, for a brief time after that closed in 2010, Olives by the Sea). First-time restaurant owners Melisa and Alan Geller have created a beautiful space -- homey yet exotic -- that put me in mind of the clothing retailer Anthropologie.

The menu is predominantly sushi (the only hot items are appetizer dumplings), and the sushi bar is under the direction of Roy Kurniawan, who had been the driving sushi force at the late, lamented Sea Cliff Sushi Co. and Bennett’s Sushi Lounge in Locust Valley.

His vision tends toward the inventive end of the sushi spectrum, with global elements -- using the Peruvian hot sauce aji in an appetizer of whitefish tiradito ($14) -- and elaborate combinations, such as the Love of My Live roll ($16) made with crunchy spicy salmon, sun-dried tomato, avocado, mango, cucumber and tobiko. My comparatively tame chirashi was given a twist in that the fish and rice were served separately, and the rice had been drizzled with a (not altogether welcome) sweet sauce.

When I learned the derivation of the restaurant’s name, I laughed out loud. Nipponophiles delight in the Japanese pronunciation of foreign words, the most famous example of which is probably “Ma-ku-do-na-ru-do”-- in English, McDonald’s. As it appears on the menu, Musu’s full name is “Wansuapona Musu.“ Say it out loud and you’ll realize you’ve said something very close to “Once Upon a Moose.”

Musu is at 304 Sea Cliff Ave., Sea Cliff, 516-671-2493

After dinner at Musu, I stopped into the Oak Room Tavern, which opened a few months ago in what used to be Roots. Owner Chris Doran ripped out Roots’ highly idiosyncratic built-in furniture and knocked down an interior wall to create a more open feel. On a Friday night, there was live music and an air of relaxed conviviality.

Doran described the food as “New American, veering toward upscale tavern” (steak frites, roasted Amish chicken with truffled potato puree, panko-Parmesan-breaded heritage pork chop with arugula, fennel and heirloom tomatoes), but he has recently hired a new chef and expects a new menu to be in place in the next month or so. We’ll keep you posted.

Oak Room Tavern is at 242 Sea Cliff Ave., Sea Cliff, 516-277-2350.

Photo: The sushi bar at Musu.

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