The gorgeous main hall of the Harvard Club.
This weekend, I had the pleasure of covering the New York City Wine and Food Festival for Honest Cooking. From wine tasting in the chic boutiques of the Meatpacking District to a hands-on oyster shucking lesson at the Standard Biergarten, it was a dynamic, whirlwind tour of the New York City food scene.
If there was one highlight out of the many events I attended, it was – without a doubt – Morimoto’s “Rock & Roll“, a sushi and karaoke soiree at the Harvard Club. Upon arriving in the ivy league digs, I was immediately struck by the incomparable decor. Taxidermy of all shapes and sizes (including an imposing elephant head), dim-lit chandeliers and dark wood paneling bedecked the cavernous hall where the city’s best sushi chefs were already busy at work.
Having been to a number of tasting events, I know the food can range from utterly disappointing to extraordinary. Raw fish is one of my favorite ingredients, so I was a bit anxious to sample the chefs’ small bites.
Happily, I can report that every bite stood up to the challenge. At $150 a ticket, the event – whose proceeds benefit the hunger-relief programs of Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength® – seemed a bargain, and I would readily recommend that any fish lover jump on the tickets the next time this sushi party rolls around.
Here are some of my favorite bites:
Sepia Tagliatelle, Marea
I’ve had sepia tagliatelle before, at Txikito in Chelsea (one of my favorite restaurants). Marea‘s take was distinctively fishier, but enjoyably so, and the “pasta” was cut a bit thicker. But unlike good Italian pasta, the texture wasn’t al dente – in fact, it was surprisingly tender for cuttlefish. Overall, a bite that redoubled my interest in dining at this highly praised restaurant.
Sardine and Roasted Red Pepper, Esca
If nothing else, Esca deserves an honorable mention for this simple, fish-forward dish. Sardines are a hard sell, and it was an excellent opportunity to present them – in their highest quality – to a crowd of eager pescatarians. It wasn’t the most impressive dish of the night, but its subtlety would not have been lost on a true fish lover.
New Style Hamachi Sashimi, Blue Ginger
I’ll admit, I had actually not heard of Blue Ginger before tasting this dish. But out of everything I ate that night, this hamachi sashimi was one of the most interesting dishes. The spicy seasoning was an unexpected twist, while the crispy rice was a pleasant textural contrast with the sashimi.
Striped Bass Jamon with Chicken and Dashi Consomme, Corton
Corton’s dish had so many layers of unexpected flavor, it was mind boggling. Yet, somehow, they all went together really nicely. The thinly sliced, slightly smokey fish was an exciting match for the bold broth – a surprise that definitely merited a second bite.
Peruvian Fluke Ceviche, La Mar Cebicheria
I love ceviche, and I have been hearing raves about La Mar‘s distinct Peruvian style. The texture of the fluke was absolutely stunning, as was the shockingly bright, pop-in your mouth citrus. Coupled with a few al dente vegetables for textural contrast, this dish was an absolute stunner.
Snapper Crudo over Smoked Grapefruit, Crave Fish Bar
This fruit and fish combo quite literally blew my mind. A just-sweet enough peach sauce, clean snapper slice and smokey spike of citrus. It was a combination that should have overwhelmed the fish, and it didn’t. Which officially makes Crave Fishbar the restaurant I want to check out the most after this outstanding city sushi tour.