When Grace of GraceNotes requested dining companions to accompany her on her journey to dine at every Michelin starred restaurant in New York City, I immediately jumped on the offer. I have been wanting to attend a fine restaurant for quite some time now and wanted to go with someone who would appreciate the experience as much as myself.
We decided upon Sushi of Gari, a quaint restaurant occupying an unassuming street corner on the heavily-residential Upper East Side. Walking by one would probably think this was a normal neighborhood sushi joint, rather than a prestigious Michelin starred restaurant.
I was really excited to learn that Grace had reserved sushi bar seats, since I’ve heard that is the best way to receive the full experience. We both decided to go for the omakase, or chef’s choice of the freshest fish.
The first piece consisted of a white fish (perhaps fluke?) topped with micro greens and a crisped sliver of lotus root. The crunch of the lotus root offered a nice contrast to the delicate fish and acidic greens.
The next piece consisted of toro topped with a ginger paste. The ginger paste offered a nice brightness to the fatty fish.
Next up was yellowtail topped with jalapeno. I’ve had this flavor pairing numerous times before and found it rather unimaginative and lackluster.
Next up was a piece of white tuna lightly seared with a blow torch. Holy yum! This was so simple, yet the blow torch added a great smoky flavor to the fish.
I was quite surprised to learn that the white blob atop the tuna consisted of tofu. Give the nice, subtlety sweet flavor I would have guessed it was miso paste.
Next up was my favorite piece of the night: salmon topped with a tomato mixture. The tomato mixture was infused with so much flavor that I could only discern a hint of the actual vegetable. The spices complimented the salmon perfectly.
I know some people who practically hold shrines for uni, worshipping its subtle brininess and silky texture. I, on the other hand, feel rather ambivalent towards the sea creature and find it only decent in taste.
Next up was another piece of blow torch seared fish; tuna topped with scallions. I really loved the simplicity of the fish and again found the smoky seared flavor to be quite nice.
Our next piece consisted of squid (again, seared) topped with a sauce that Grace and I both believed to contain uni. The actual squid was rather boring, but the sauce elevated it to another level entirely.
Upon eating this next piece of “tuna tartare” I immediately remarked that it tasted like sesame chicken found in Chinese restaurants, not necessarily a bad thing. I liked how the sushi chef played with textures by cutting the tuna into long tentacle-like strands.
Our second to last piece consisted of sweet shrimp topped with a pepper salsa. I was pretty underwhelmed by this dish because I’m not a huge fan of raw shrimp and the spicy salsa overpowered the delicate sweetness of the crustacean.
Our final piece consisted of a white fish topped with a mushroom mixture. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of the fish’s smokiness with the earthiness of the mushrooms. This dish was definitely a winner.
While I found most of the pieces to be really high quality and interesting in taste, I wasn’t entirely wowed by the whole experience. I felt that the sushi chefs were too blow-torch happy and many of the pieces felt similar in taste. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good piece of blow torched fish, but when you’re only receiving a tasting of 12 pieces, I feel there should be greater variety. I also thought that the ratio of food to price was not high enough.
I should also note that the ambiance is cozy and quaint, with the majority of patrons consisting of neighborhood residents and business men. Our server was attentive without hovering and I was relieved when she inquired at the onset of the meal if we had any allergies or dislikes (since I am highly allergic to scallops, mussels, and clams and feared that a dish would contain them).
I had such a great time meeting Grace, who is just as nice and friendly as she comes across on her blog. I wish her luck as she conquers her goal of visiting every Michelin starred NYC restaurant in the year 2010!