Vortex draws you in.
Sharp and bright, the new restaurant combines Asian fusion with Japanese cuisine. The result: nimble, creative, very good.
It's situated in the Port Jefferson Commons shopping center, which longtime diners may remember as the home of Asian spots such as Sawadee and Tangerine. Vortex whirls its own way, against a clublike, blue-lit backdrop. Your focus, however, will be less on the color scheme and the hard surfaces than the performance of the sushi chefs.
Their showing is highlighted by the Vortex version of kaiseki, the artfully arranged, multicourse dinner, similar to a tasting menu, traditionally pegged to the season and the interplay of texture, flavor, look and hue. The rendition is a more modest and informal eight small dishes, similar to omakase, or chef's choice, and comes in at $75.
One evening, the presentation began with madai, slices of lustrous snapper, set on a kani salad. But the salad unbundled more faux (surimi) than crabmeat. It was followed by a trio of uncooked maguro tuna and salmon, buttressed by snow crab out of the shell. Next: lightly briny, sweet Kumamoto oysters, accented with quail eggs. Silky, thinly sliced live scallop followed.
Post-scallop came a four-section box, with a union of spicy salmon and seaweed salad, rice-paper wrapped lobster salad, which contain a bull's-eye of shellfish; crisp shrimp tempura; and sashimi of madai and tuna played off vivid orange sea-urchin sushi.
Missing were courses such as simmered meat or fish; soups; grilled seafood; a hot pot; pickled vegetables. Unfortunately, the dessert was far from a kaiseki classic -- ice cream tempura, dull as always. Ice cream aside, it will be interesting to see how kaiseki evolves here.
Vortex's lavishly illustrated regular menu, which looks like a souvenir program from a mid-1960s epic movie, includes standout tuna dumplings. They're shaped with raw maguro almost akin to triangles of hamantaschen. Shrimp shumai are respectable, as is the sushi deluxe platter. Familiar and more exotic sushi rolls abound.
Veering to the cooked, sample the sweet-spicy, crisp-skinned red snapper with Thai-basil sauce. There's competition from black cod and asparagus, with clear miso sauce; and a "king of the sea" combo with snow crab, mussels, clams, lobster and corn.
And, in the fluid dynamics area, Vortex has a solid list of sakes and beers.