And so it begins.I've finished a glass of Dassai Junmai Daiginjo Nigori ($14) and now we've moved onto a bottle of the same ($40) for the table. The courses proceed in spectacular fashion. The crispy Fried Kumamoto Oyster is plump and succulent, dressed in a zesty citrus yuzu kosho aioli and topped with a glistening crown of squid ink bubbles. One bite is an astonishing sensation that is at once lightly chewy, crunchy, bubbly and buttery. A fatty Bluefin Toro Tartare is sophisticated with sea salt and garlic, overlapped with thinly shaved alba white truffles. This individually portioned dish was a thoughtful change of pace from the highly skilled nigiri preparations that preceded, and those that continue to follow still with inventive flavors highlighting impeccably fresh pieces of fish. A second bite of Salmon, even more enlightening than the first is coated in a Vietnamese dashi caramel soy sauce and topped with a spicy rau ram (Vietnamese cilantro/coriander) salsa. Then comes the coveted Bluefin Tuna. Its ruby red flesh, dense and fatty, is brushed in a foie gras ponzu and capped with caramelized onion and crunchy gobo, a Japanese root which lends a distinct nuttiness. As we near the halfway point, bracing for the move to more subtle flavors, a traditional palate cleanser of Alaskan King Crab Sunomono with pickled wakame, daikon and cucumber is served. Following is an intricate bite of Aji Tataki - the mackerel is finely chopped and served with daikon pickle, myoga and scallion ginger powder. The herbaceous gingery notes are pronounced as the powder playfully melts into your tongue. Next we recieve Smoked Unagi, the eel appealing for its typically sweet, melty qualities takes on another level of complexity having been smoked and served with soy maple and pickled ginger. Out comes another grand gesture, Foie Gras Powder served on an elongated wooden spoon with smoked miso and preserved California yuzu. The complexities amaze, the texture is at once fluffy before it melts into a lightweight paste, finishing with a crunch of tempura. The flavors are unexpectedly powerful and pronounced. A beautiful Bluefin Otoro comes sashimi style, with wasabi oil and heaps of green onion. This tuna belly is flawless, the toppings lending a balanced heat. Two small bites each of Arctic Char are served with cured yuzu, cilantro and smoked sesame brittle over a thick brushstroke of an inventive cumin aioli. A Hokkaido Sea Scallop is of impeccable sashimi grade quality brimming with freshness, bathing in a delicious sake sea urchin jus, topped with burgundy truffles. I actually preferred to eat the truffles separate from the scallops, I felt their powerful depth masked the beauty of the exquisite sea creature. Relishing every intricate bite with a focused concentration, we're three quarters of the way finished and still somehow the best is yet to come. The Shiso Tempura with Grilled Lobster presents a tempura dredged crispy fried shiso leaf cradling succulent lobster and charred tomato with a dollop of ponzu aioli. Like an intricate version of the best potato chip you've ever tasted, this bite of food plays magic tricks on your palate. Gold leafs shimmer atop a dazzling "Faberge" Onsen Egg that has been delicately slow poached revealing a creamy runny yolk greeted by white sturgeon caviar, green onion and a sweet soy dashi sauce. A dish of Grilled Chanterelle & Shitake Mushrooms are pleasantly aromatic and unconventionally exquisite. Thinly sliced caps are tender and fleshy, almost meaty, stems are slightly firmer, layered with rosemary garlic oil, sesame froth and housemade soy. On its own a $61 dish, the Seared Petit Strip Loin of Wagyu is astonishingly good. A flawless preparation showcases silky smooth slices of beef, subtly sweet with a savory edge, over a bed of potato confit accented with sea salt and white truffle oil. As we near the end, Hillman Fresh Chevre comes speckled with vanilla nori over a pool of Asian pear. The tart and creamy goat cheese is balanced by the juicy Asian pear, while vanilla nori adds a contrast with a dash of crunch. To wash down this second to last bite, a Mito No Kairakuen Premuim Plum Liquer, aged 5 years is a welcome refreshment. We cross the finish line with an indulgent Foie Gras Nigiri coated in balsamic chocolate kabayaki and claudio corallo rasin cocoa pulp. A thick wedge of lightly seared foie gras is swept up in sweet chocolate tempered by a tang of balsamic and hint of raisin. A glorious finale, especially as it's teemed with a Hanahato Junmai Kijoshu Sake, aged 8 years, from Hiroshima. The final bites, and the thoughtfully paired sips of thick, sweet sake are exquisite.It's 11:00 pm and we've closed down the restaurant. I feel blissfully enlightened and incredibly lucky. To celebrate a very special occasion or should you find yourself inheriting a small fortune, allow this modern Japanese cuisine to entice you. O Ya is all at once extravagant, refined and elaborate; wonderfully imaginative and genuinely outstanding.
Monday, October 24, 2011
O Ya Grand Omakase Chef's Tasting
Preceded by its upstanding reputation and precluded by a hefty price tag; the buzz hasn't let up since it opened in March of 2007, and my desire to visit has only grown stronger all the while. As good fortune combined with a little hard work and dedication would have it, I landed an invitation to dinner at O Ya as a result of my involvement with the soon-to-launch website Tasted Menu. I made my way down to the Leather District on a misty Thursday evening; by 6:30 pm it was nearly dark as I ducked off Atlantic Avenue onto East Street, where the restaurant resides in an obscure brick building marked by small glowing lanterns and a single hanging sign. The discreet entrance is just around the corner, where a commanding door, tall and narrow constructed of chic wood leads you into an intimate dining space heralded by an L shaped sushi bar. The decor inside this reclaimed firehouse is minimal and sleek, the vibe serene and comfortable. Joined by fellow beta testers and friends, Rachel and Bianca, along with Tasted Menu's CEO, Alex we embarked on an epic twenty-two course culinary voyage; The Omakase Grand Tasting Menu ($275/per person). Omakase is a Japanese phrase that means "I'll leave it to you", and at O Ya, it is a matchless expression of chef Tim Cushman's talents. Each dish in his repertoire stands as a work of art; creative, innovative, and poignantly displayed. The taste embraces qualities that stretch far beyond the realm of adjectives that do them justice; simply stated, this is some extraordinary Japanese cuisine. In a bamboo steamer filled with ice are Kumamoto Oysters to begin the meal. The beloved bivalve is sweet and ridiculously plump, adorned with juicy watermelon pearls and a refreshing cucumber mignonette. Next comes Hamachi, a type of Yellowtail fish characterized by its light pink, oily flesh. Rich, smooth, buttery and topped with a lightly torched spicy pepper banana mousse, it gives off a fantastic heat that lingers on the palate. Elegantly draped over a block of rice, Wild King Salmon glistens on the plate and the taste buds, with a spicy lemongrass curry sauce and a chiffonade of thai basil. Maine Sea Urchin & White Sturgeon Caviar proves a duo of oceanic delicacies are even better than one. Sharp with a touch of sweetness, the bright yellow roe is ultra creamy, just a hint firmer than pudding. The caviar is smooth and glossy, imparting a rich nutty flavor. Fishy meets elegant in a composed bite of Kamasu Wild Line Caught Japanese Barracuda balancing a baby tomato and shiso drizzled with yuzu truffle. Barracuda is a unique fish that possesses a firm texture and strong flavor.