A Dream of Sushi

April 13, 2014


One of the great joys of working at Conde Nast was that Sushi Zen was just a block away. And, of course, that I had an expense account and could afford to go there. Although this wonderful restaurant flies beneath the radar, I think it's one of the truly great sushi bars of New York. Once Chef Suzuki gets to know your tastes, eating there is pure pleasure. 

I'm no longer a regular, but when I have something to celebrate, Sushi Zen is the first place I think of. Last Friday, when we had some wonderful news, we went out for a feast.

It began with this elegant and very Zen arrangement of vegetables:


In the front, a dish of marinated ferns topped with a dice of yama imo.  A tumble of textures and flavors, leaping across each other, waking up the mouth.  In the back, burdock root rolled in sesame seeds and topped with a single goji berry.  Eating these two dishes you imagine yourself high in some Japanese monastery; close your eyes and you can almost hear the wind blowing.

Next came that lovely arrangement of raw fish at the top, sitting on its own bed of ice.  At the far left, raw octopus, more texture than flavor, a bite that really slowed us down.  A rose made of tuna. A curl of hamachi. The freshest pickled ginger. Diced spanish mackerel, tossed with scallion. And that is only the front; give the basket a twirl and you find a few fantastic bites hidding in the back.

On the left, a dish of shirako (milt, or cod fish sperm). Like little clouds, all soft tenderness.

Next to it, snuggled into a shell, its edible opposite. The red clam is all brine and chew – and totally delicious.


A cooked course. Eggplant. Shiraku tempura.  And a little uni handroll, wrapped in batter and deep-fried.

This was followed by one pristine piece of sushi after another:





to demonstrate just a few.

And finally, a delicate little dish of dessert, one shimmering round fruit suspended in a shining cube of aspic.  



What I love about Sushi Zen is not only the superb quality of the fish and the artistry of the presentation, but the quiet pace of each meal.  Leaving, I felt refreshed, happy – and eager to come back. 

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