Friday, January 18, 2013

Ichimura at Brushstroke

When you first walk into Brushstroke in Tribeca, you're greeted by a hostess and a lively atmosphere of diners and chefs working behind the sushi bar. However, if you're lucky enough to get a reservation for Ichimura (which only does 2 seatings per night for a max of 9 seats) then you're swept away to the right behind the curtains to a simple wooden bar with Master Chef Eiji Ichimura at the helm. No sous chefs stand behind there with him. It's just you and 8 other lucky diners for the edo mae style omakase dinner (starting at $150).


The meal starts with a greeting from Ichimura-san as well as some questions about any dietary constraints. The waiter offers some water: sparkling or still water, both bottled (~$8) and menu of drinks. I had the Kumquat Basil cocktail ($13) made with gin. It was very refreshing and paired well with the meal to come. Mr. M&P had the Hitachino White Ale ($12) which is a light beer with citrus notes. As we sat and enjoyed our drinks, we started off the meal with the chawanmushi, an egg custard that is so silky smooth. It's garnished with sweet snow crab meat and truffle gelee on top. Surprisingly, the truffles didn't overpower the dish at all. It remained incredibly delicate.

The next tasting involved a variety of vegetables and cold bites. Ichimura-san carefully laid out each component on a long dish, garnishing as he see fit. As he described each ingredient, we realized that he is very soft spoken and humble. We started with monkfish liver with pickled plums, then moved to the perfectly cooked squid and orange clam, the chewy mackerel roe, sweet gobo root, and sake cooked tuna with radish and squash. I'm forgetting a few items here but these were the most memorable.

A brief break in between dishes and we were ready for our sashimi. Our table setting was set up in front of us with slate plates and a small dish of soy sauce. Ichimura-san started placing the garnishes first with the myoga ginger, wakame seaweed, shiso leaf, Japanese sea salt, and freshly grated wasabi from a shark skin paddle. Our first taste of fresh seafood wasn't on the plate at all. Instead, it was presented in a small bowl. Inside were four to five pieces of incredibly sweet and briny pieces of sea urchin from Maine. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality as I'm more used to sea urchin from Santa Barbara, California or Hokkaido, Japan. These were luscious, tender, and rich in flavor. I wanted more.

As we ate, Ichimura-san prepped our sashimi and placed it on our plates. The first round included more white fleshed fish like grouper, mackerel, red snapper, and fluke. We were given at least 2 pieces of each kind of sashimi. I tried to mix and match the fish with the garnishes. Most needed some kind of enhancement so the soy sauce and sea salt was used. Wasabi was used sparingly. The ginger helped refresh my tongue between bites. And the seaweed gave me something different (vegetables) in a sea of protein. The next wave of sashimi included sliced abalone, medium fatty tuna, and fatty tuna. The abalone was a bit too stiff and was very crunchy. I wish it were sliced just slightly thinner. The pieces of tuna were generous in size. The flavors were rich, clean, and decadent. The medium fatty piece was a nice precursor to the fatty tuna. Every person sitting at the bar asked for a second helping. Ichimura-san happily obliged.

After the sashimi, came the nigiri course. A different place setting was presented to us along with a clean towel as nigiri is meant to be eaten with your fingers. We started off with some of the saem fish we had earlier but this time with rice with a dab of wasabi. Sometimes we also got a dab of yuzu on top as well. We had a round of fluke, anchovies, striped bass, grouper, sea urchin, and more. Then came his aged seafood. First the tunas. Aged medium fatty and fatty tuna was presented to us. The taste was more intense but not in a fishy way. It was a deep ocean flavor emphasized with each fish's unique taste. The texture was very soft. So much so that it basically just melted in our mouths like butter. In fact, it must be served nigiri style. It's too tender for sashimi. Similar to aging beef, there's a lot of waste that comes from the process. Ichimura-san said he loses 60% of the meat due to aging. That's some pricey piece of fish. The last aged piece of nigiri were the scallops. As a whole, they were huge. The biggest I've seen. He sliced each piece with precision then layered it on some sushi rice and brushed some soy sauce on top. The flavor was intensely sweet. I was surprised at how sweet a raw scallop could be. I couldn't imagine eating more than one piece of each of the aged seafood. They were so rich and the flavor so intense that any more would be overkill. One bite of each was perfect.

At the end of the meal, Ichimura-san asked if we would like anything else. I asked for some eel since we didn't have earlier. He asked if sea eel was okay since he didn't have unagi (fresh water eel). I happily said yes since I've had very good experiences with sea eel previously. He went into the back and heated up the eel so it had a slight char. Then he packed it with some rice and brushed his soy sauce on top with a sprinkle of salt to finish. It was creamy, soft, and delicious. A clean fish flavor nut more meaty than the sushi we've had earlier. It was the perfect ending. We called it a night here and capped the meal off with the barley tea offered to us. The perfect digestive to all the fish and rice. No dessert for us.

The omakase ending up costing us $160 each plus the cost of the drinks, water, tax, and tip. I really enjoyed the night with Master Chef Ichimura and his unique aged sushi. He is meticulous with his work and it's obvious with the precision of each dish. We loved watching him prep each piece then describing his work with his soft spoken manners. His skills were impressive. While I thoroughly enjoyed my entire experience at Ichimura at Brushstroke without regret, I don't think it beats out my current favorite Japanese fine dining sushi restaurants. With that said, the aged sushi was something special and worth trying at least once. You won't find that anywhere else.

Ichimura at Brushstroke
30 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 791-3771
davidbouley.com/brushstrokesushi

3 comments:

  1. great writeup! didn't even miss the pictures.

    so you'll be going back to 15 East first?

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    Replies
    1. 15 East and Yasuda are my top sushi places.

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  2. Nice write up. Sounds like it was really fantastic. This is something I'd try to get out of my parents if they weren't vegans...boo.

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