Clean Eating: Florentine Pinwheel Steaks

3. Esashi

+

(212) 505-8726

32 Avenue A, near Third Street

East Village

$ All major cards

Esashi is a modest, informal restaurant that stands out for its sushi and a variety of other well-prepared Japanese dishes. The sushi selection is not particularly large or unusual, but everything is exceptionally fresh and beautifully presented. Esashi also has an extensive menu beyond sushi. Tiger eye, an unusually beautiful appetizer with a subtle flavor, is a strip of cooked skate wrapped around salmon with a layer of seaweed. Special appetizers are offered daily and may include shumai (shrimp dumplings with tofu skin) and monkfish liver with ponzu sauce. Esashi has a wide selection of sakes, served both warm and cold.

4. Hatsuhana

** [Rating: Two Stars]

(212) 355-3345

17 East 48th Street

Manhattan

$$ All major cards

Of all the city's sushi bars, Hatsuhana best bridges the gap between East and West. Hatsuhana is a comfortable and welcoming restaurant where you can depend on being served high-quality sushi whether you speak Japanese or not. The sushi and sashimi are always very good and can be extraordinary, especially if you put yourself in the hands of the chef. The quality of the cooked food is also excellent; chawan mushi, the seafood and vegetable custard, is particularly good, and the broiled yellowtail collar is very satisfying. Hatsuhana offers a long sake list, including a few unusual bottles that are excellent.

5. Inagiku

** [Rating: Two Stars]

(212) 355-0440

111 East 49th Street, in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

Manhattan

$$$$ All major cards

The menu at this cosmopolitan sanctuary is full of unfrightening dishes intended for wary travelers, but the Japanese businessmen who go to Inagiku choose completely different dishes. They begin by ordering from the extensive (and expensive) sake list. Then the waitresses start a seemingly endless parade, bearing the small, beautifully arranged ''classic little dishes'' and ''seasonal offerings'' to their tables. These are the heart of Inagiku's menu, which says that ''six or seven make a traditional Japanese meal, tapas style.'' Eating in this fashion is light and appealing, and very expensive. You might begin with seaweed that you slurp from a small ceramic bowl or with the more ordinary (but no less delicious) boiled spinach in sesame sauce. Cold tofu with spices is cool and refreshing, while black cod marinated in sake lees and grilled is a rich, irresistible morsel of fish. Rosy slices of raw tuna are topped with grated yam so the fish looks as if it had been left out in the snow. Many of the Japanese businessmen begin their meals with a sashimi extravaganza, a gorgeous presentation.

6. Kuruma Zushi

*** [Rating: Three Stars]

(212) 317-2802

7 East 47th Street

Manhattan

$$$$ All major cards

Kuruma Zushi is one of New York's most venerable sushi bars. In contrast to many places that are this traditional, Kuruma Zushi is welcoming to people who do not speak Japanese, and few are better at introducing people to sushi than Toshihiro Uezu, the proprietor. From the fresh wasabi (subtler and more delicate than the powdered sort) to the sheer quality of the seafood, Kuruma Zushi cuts no corners in presenting the best possible sushi and sashimi. Just put yourself in Mr. Uezu's hands for a memorable experience.

7. Mottsu

+

(212) 343-8017

285 Mott Street, near Houston Street

Little Italy

$ All major cards

You don't expect a Japanese restaurant on the doorstep of Little Italy, so it's easy to walk right by Mottsu, a hip, neighborly and low-key place with a savvy chef who artfully turns out fresh, moderately priced sushi. Top choices include the tuna, the eel hand roll made with cucumber, an almost cedary smoked salmon roll and the occasional special, like a hand roll made with lightly battered soft-shell crab, perfectly fried, and avocado. Mottsu also offers a half dozen meat and poultry entrees.

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8. Nobu

*** [Rating: Three Stars]

(212) 219-0500

105 Hudson Street

TriBeCa

$$$ All major cards

Nobu, a restaurant unlike almost any other, has a spirit of invention that turns meals into adventures. By incorporating new ingredients into old dishes or retooling tradition, Nobu Matsuhisa has created an entirely new take on Japanese food. Of course Nobu is far more than a sushi bar. Still, sushi lovers will find that no kitchen in the city turns out a more spectacular plate of raw fish. The best time to discover this is at lunchtime, when the airy, modern room is far less frantic and you can almost always snag a seat at the sushi bar. To sample the restaurant's best, let the chef devise a meal just for you.

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9. Sugiyama

*** [Rating: Three Stars]

(212) 956-0670

251 West 55th Street

Manhattan

$$$$ All major cards

This tiny restaurant doesn't look much different from many other little Japanese restaurants, but the food is so extraordinary that a visit feels like a dreamy voyage to Japan. The chef and owner, Nao Sugiyama, serves modern kaiseki meals: you tell the chef how many courses you want and how much you are willing to spend and put yourself in his hands. This artful food makes no concessions to American prejudices. Splendid sushi is a part of each meal, but there are often sliced sea cucumber in vinegar, tiny crabs no larger than a fingernail, lily roots, ginger buds and blocks of soft tofu laced with tiny fish. Mr. Sugiyama often begins the meal with ankimo, the smooth Japanese version of foie gras (actually monkfish liver), served with a tiny wooden spoon. Most meals continue with zensai, beautiful little appetizers arranged with great delicacy, then an assortment of sashimi, then perhaps rich, decadent black cod marinated in sake lees. The meal invariably closes with miso soup, pickles and rice.

10. Sushiden

+++

(212) 758-2700

19 East 49th Street

Manhattan

$$ All major cards

In midtown Manhattan, where sushi bars appear on almost every block, bright and lively Sushiden stands out. The sushi is fresh and fine, and the service is lovely. The $20 lunch of assorted sushi is a particularly good deal and a delight, sometimes including both fatty tuna and lean tuna, a rich piece of eel, fine yellowtail, sea urchin, sweet shrimp, salmon, salmon roe and fluke. Sushiden has a second branch at 123 West 49th Street.

11. Sushihatsu

*** [Rating: Three Stars]

(212) 371-0238

1143 First Avenue, at 62nd Street

Manhattan

$$$$ American Express, Diner's Club

The sushi bar at Sushihatsu offers breathtakingly good fish of an astonishing purity, fish that seems so light you feel you could go on eating forever. Start with sashimi. The variety is amazing, beginning, perhaps, with tiny octopuses, each no larger than a large marble, and moving through rich toro, cubed Spanish mackerel, smoky yellowtail, scallops and sweet fresh shrimp. Then sushi: soft sea bream; clam, with its clear, piercing flavor; a variety of fish roe; sea urchin, and finally, umeboshi, the pungent salted plum paste layered with shiso leaves, sesame seeds, radish sprouts and crunchy slices of Japanese potato, and rolled in seaweed. The bill will be huge, but the best sushi is not cheap.

12. Taka

++

(212) 242-3699

61 Grove Street, near Seventh Avenue South

West Village

$$ All major cards

Three things distinguish this sushi bar from other Japanese restaurants in New York City. One is that the sushi chef is a woman, Taka Yoneyama, who is a joy to watch as she swoops and cuts. The second is her unusual presentation. Leave the choice to the chef and you will get tuna decorated with leaves of edible gold, or squid stuffed with spiced cod roe and shiso, cut into pinwheels and stacked like sculpture. The salmon roe scattered across the top glitters like jewels. Third is that Ms. Yoneyama is especially nice to children, even those who won't eat anything but rice. The plates are handmade and the restaurant is tiny; with its few tables and miniature sushi bar, Taka has the intimate scale of a Tokyo sushi bar.

Summaries taken from reviews use the star ratings. Others are taken from the $25 and Under column (+) and articles (++), and capsule revies from New York Today: www.nytoday.com (+++).

What the Stars Mean

**** -- Extraordinary

*** -- Excellent

** -- Very Good

* -- Good

None Poor to Satisfactory

Price Range

Based on the cost of a three-course dinner, per person, tax, tip and drinks not included.

$ -- $25 and under

$$ -- $25 to $40

$$$ -- $40 to $55

$$$$ -- $55 and over

Past Reviews -- Eating Out columns back to June 1998, along with reviews from The Times and capsule reviews by Times critics of additional restaurants not reviewed in the newspaper, are available on New York Today.

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/1999/11/05/arts/eating-out-sushi-for-all.html

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