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Wednesday
Dec112013

Sushi Nakazawa is a Welcomed, New Breed of Four Star Restaurant

[daniel krieger for the ny times] daisuke nakazawaPete Wells reviewed Le Bernardin in May this year and gave the restaurant four stars. It was the first time in his two year tenure the critic doled out such an accolade. Not surprising, considering the city only had six restaurants of this caliber at the time. The others being Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Del Posto, Jean-Georges, and Daniel. But Wells took away Daniel's fourth star in July this year. With today's review though, a shining four star number of Sushi Nakazawa in the West Village, the number is back up to six.

Daisuke Nakazawa, the chef, worked for eleven years at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the restaurant that got it's own documentary in 2011 that everyone still (rightfully so) talks about. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about a 10-seat sushi counter buried in a Tokyo train station that has drawn people from all over the world. A meal there costs about $300/person and lasts less than an hour, but the strict pursuit of perfection and immaculate execution there is priceless (it seems, we haven't eaten there. Yet...)

Sushi Nakazawa opened on Commerce Street in the West Village in August, months after Alessandro Borgognone, the restaurants owner, found Daisuke Nakazawa on Facebook and invited him to open a restaurant in New York City.

"The moment-to-moment joys of eating one mouthful of sushi after another can merge into a blur of fish bliss," Wells writes. "But almost everything Mr. Nakazawa cups in his hands and places in front of you is an event on its own. A piece of his sushi grabs control of your senses, and when it’s gone, you wish you could have it again." Wells also writes about Nakazawa's approach, "Everything is gently pressed over rice, in the two-century-old Edo style of sushi that Mr. Nakazawa respects and refines. Sashimi is not served, and there are no hot dishes from the kitchen."

Sushi Nakazawa is the city's first four star restaurant that's not a juggarnaut in terms of size and space. That means rent, among other costs, is significantly lower. The city's other restaurants of a shared caliber are 100+ seaters with tremendous rents and other variables that result in a high price for the consumer. You can eat at Sushi Nakazawa for $120 if you don't want to sit at the counter. If you do sit there and watch Nakazawa in action it's only $30 more. Either way, the meal is about 20 courses. The menu is different than the ones at the city's other four star restaurants, which might be the biggest factor in cost, but it's also much cheaper. A meal at Eleven Madison Park is $225. Jean-Georges, $198. Per Se, $295. Consider other restaurants that serve similar fare, (Brooklyn Fare charges $255, Neta $225), and the price is one on a long list of reasons to eat at Sushi Nakazawa. [NYTimes]

Sukiyabashi Jiro
Sukiyabashi Jiro

Sukiyabashi Jiro

 

Friday
Dec062013

Donde Dinner? - 195 Morgan Avenue

Donde Dinner? aims to make your next dining experience an adventure. So every Friday we pick a restaurant and post its address for you. The catch is, that's all the information you get. No name, no type of cuisine, and no Googling. But first, here's last week's address:

13 East 37th Street = Cafe China

This week's restaurant follows typical Donde Dinner? fashion. Price, quality, and accessibility have all been taken into account. You won't be waiting at the bar for two hours with $16 cocktails and you never have to worry about a dress code. Just hop on the train, or your feet, or your bike, and head to:

195 Morgan Avenue (map)

Tuesday
Dec032013

Out in California Part IX

We spent three nights camping along the Pacific Coast Highway before arriving in San Francisco. Each night out there exposed us to new people and new environs and left us inspired to share them with you. Sometimes the tales have to do with food, sometimes they don't. Either way, expect one every Tuesday until we get to San Francisco. Read Parts I through VII over here.

Much of California was in a state of fire weather watch. San Simeon State Park, only 35 miles south on the Pacific Coast Highway, allowed contained fires the night before, but when I pulled into Plaskett Creek there was yellow caution tape wrapped around the fire pits. The sun was too low in the sky to leave in search of campgrounds that permitted fire, so I checked in and setup camp in a corner lot that butted up against thick woods.

A couple came over and invited me to finish the leftover pasta they just boiled. The introduction happened fast and came with a sense of camaraderie. I used a thin tin spoon to scoop pesto from a glass jar and stir into a bowlful of cellentani noodles. I leaned against the couple's picnic table and got to know Martina and Bastian as I ate their food. This was their last night in the wilderness and they would leave to go back home to Hamburg in the morning.

"Have you heard anything about Sand Dollar Beach?" I asked after finishing dinner and rinsing out the bowl at a nearby pump.

"We haven't, no."

"Come on," I said, "it's just across the street."

We set for the beach with headlamps around our necks and beers in our hands. I had read that Sand Dollar Beach was near Plakett Creek, but wasn't exactly sure where. Fifty yards up the road from the Plaskett Creek entrance, though, is a worn path that leads up a short hill and into an open field. Countless footsteps have carved out a path there and it takes you to stairs that lead down onto Sand Dollar Beach: the largest crescent of sandy beach in Big Sur. Standing on the shore, the massive arch of Pacific cliffs traps the sound of waves breaking and causes it to echo.

The sand was cold on our bare feet, but not as cold as the water that raced onto the shore sporadically and with force as we stood with our backs to it.

We finished our beers and turned on our headlamps to make our way back to Plaskett Creek. Without any fires nearby the sky was dark and only disrupted by stars and our luminescent foreheads. We got back to camp and each got another beer and one more layer, then a car pulled up and someone got out to introduce themself.

Tuesday
Nov262013

Out in California Part VIII

We spent three nights camping along the Pacific Coast Highway before arriving in San Francisco. Each night out there exposed us to new people and new environs and left us inspired to share them with you. Sometimes the tales have to do with food, sometimes they don't. Either way, expect one every Tuesday until we get to San Francisco. Read Parts I through VII over here.

There was a No Trespassing sign too. That and the barking dog are what made me put the car in park. With the dog on the other side of the ravine, and its owner now sidled up next to it, I called out to man and beast, "Hello."

The dog stopped barking and my call hung ignored over the ravine.

"I was told there are campgrounds nearby."

"Campgrounds? No campgrounds up here. You can't go up there"

I had just over an hour before the sun would go and leave night behind. The drive up to the No Trespassing sign took forty minutes, so I'd have about thirty to find a place to camp once I made it back down to the PCH.

I passed three cars on my decent. They were all trucks and their drivers met my eyes with strange looks when they saw a Mazda battling the unpaved, cliffside road. I brought the car to a stop as one of the trucks passed. The driver had his window open.

"How you doin buddy?" He wasn't wearing a shirt and his skin had leathered from a lifetime in the sun.

"Good," I told him, not sure yet if that was the case or not. "Guy back in town told me there were campgrounds somewhere up here. All I found was a No Trespassing sign and a barking dog about a mile back. The dog's owner came out and told me there was nothing up that way."

"Oh, him. I know that guy. Come on, he can't tell ya that. I'm headin up there now. The road opens up to a clearing. I'm campin up there tonight, gonna be a full moon, bright as day. Just the sky man. You wanna follow me up?"

Plan B: Plaskett Creek.

"No, I don't think so. Heard about another campsite up the road a ways. Thanks though."

I missed it on the drive up. There's a post just off the road two or three hundred yards in. It's four feet tall and there's a yellow sign with a diagonal red line cutting through red flames painted at the center. Underneath: "No Campfires." There's a path that invites any and all deep into the woods to camp at their own risk. I was intrigued, but wanted a sure thing and the option of fire.

I pulled into Plaskett Creek at the tail end of dusk.

Friday
Nov222013

Donde Dinner? - 13 East 37th Street

Donde Dinner? aims to make your next dining experience an adventure. So every Friday we pick a restaurant and post its address for you. The catch is, that's all the information you get. No name, no type of cuisine, and no Googling. But first, here's last week's address:

369 Broome Street = Curry and Tandoor Corner

This week's restaurant follows typical Donde Dinner? fashion. Price, quality, and accessibility have all been taken into account. You won't be waiting at the bar for two hours with $15 cocktails and you never have to worry about a dress code. Just hop on the train, or your feet, or your bike, and head to:

13 East 37th Street (map)

Tuesday
Nov192013

Out in California Part VII

We spent three nights camping along the Pacific Coast Highway before arriving in San Francisco. Each night out there exposed us to new people and new environs and left us inspired to share them with you. Sometimes the tales have to do with food, sometimes they don't. Either way, expect one every Tuesday until we get to San Francisco. Read Parts I through V over here.

I hadn't been on the Pacific Coast Highway for five minutes when I saw the zebras Partick and Leroy told me about. They roam the 250,000 acre property of Hearst Castle, which extends to San Simeon State Park in the south and the highway to the west. That's why I camped there the first night. Not to see the zebras, but because I found out the day before you can take a tour of the castle's wine cellar.

George Hearst bought 40,000 acres of ranchland in 1865. Fifty years later, his son William Randolph inherited the property, which had grown the acreage it is today. By 1949, 165 rooms were built and Hearst Castle was finished. The property is owned by California State Parks, but the Hearst family owns the contents therein. So the castle and it's furniture belongs to the Hearsts, but the land it sits on is the state's. Similar rule ties into the wine cellar, which is stocked with bottles of old vermouth, Chablis, Bordeaux, and German riesling from the twenties, and Nuits St. Georges pinot noir from 1878. The state owns the actual bottles, but the family owns the wine.

I left the castle at 3pm and started to think about where I'd camp. I had done a bit of research and figured I could hit Plaskett Creek Campgrounds by nightfall. Sand Dollar Beach is across the street and the name intrigued me. But when I pulled off the highway near Salmon Creek Falls, the lad who made my coffee told me about campgrounds up near Treebones. "When you pull of the highway, you'll see a sign. You can go right for Treebones, but turn left," he said. "That's Will Creek Road. There's no fee to camp there."

I drove ten miles from Salmon Creek until I saw signs for Treebones. I turned off the highway and saw the sign. I took a left. It was 4pm. Will Creek Road winds up into the mountains with about three feet to spare between road and cliff. It's all loose dirt and sand. None of it's paved. I continued to drive, kicking up more and more dust as I looked for signs of campgrounds. There were none - campgrounds or otherwise. The terrain was rugged. Thirty minutes later, the sun lower in the sky, and I had gone less than four miles. That's when I heard a dog's bark come through the passenger side window I had cracked open and put the car in park.

There was a deep ravine between me and the bark and I was at the edge of it. On the other side was a somewhat manicured lawn. The dog kept barking when it's owner saddled up next to it and looked over at me.

Friday
Nov152013

Donde Dinner? - 369 Broome Street

Donde Dinner? aims to make your next dining experience an adventure. So every Friday we pick a restaurant and post its address for you. The catch is, that's all the information you get. No name, no type of cuisine, and no Googling. But first, here's last week's address:

71 West Broadway =  Mangez Avec Moi

This week's restaurant follows typical Donde Dinner? fashion. Price, quality, and accessibility have all been taken into account. You won't be waiting at the bar for two hours with $15 cocktails and you never have to worry about a dress code. Just hop on the train, or your feet, or your bike, and head to:

369 Broome Street (map)

Tuesday
Nov122013

Out in California Part VI

We spent three nights camping along the Pacific Coast Highway before arriving in San Francisco. Each night out there exposed us to new people and new environs and left us inspired to share them with you. Sometimes the tales have to do with food, sometimes they don't. Either way, expect one every Tuesday until we get to San Francisco. Read Parts I through V over here.

I couldn’t quite remember, but I was pretty sure Leroy was wearing the same thing that he had on the day before. Not entirely important, but it's important to know he’s that sort of fellow. He’s consistent. His pace never varies. Nor does his relaxed drawl or enthusiasm for stones, as I would find out. I stayed seated at the picnic table as Leroy waltzed over with the sun to his back. I rinsed the dishes from breakfast and put them away. There was room for Leroy to sit down, but he didn’t.

“How’d ya sleep?” he asked, standing by the fire I kept burning.

“Oh, fine. Except I woke up to what I just found out was a raccoon getting into Patrick and Carolyn’s cooler.”

“Oh yea, they’re clever critters when they’re hungry.”

He continued to stand as he went into greater detail about his life – which began in West Virgina. Florida and a bike accident happened. That forced surgery and a scar on his left forearm and left him unable to squeeze the front break on his bicycle. But it wasn’t enough to keep him from making the thirty-mile trip to San Simeon State Park a few times a year.

“I like it here," he said. "It’s quiet. There’s cell service and you can have campfires." When he said that the wind shifted and blew warm heat from my fire at us. “And there’s lots of neat stones.”

“Stones? How do you mean?”

He turned around and got ten steps closer to his campsite before he answered me. “I’ll show ya,” he said, without turning around.

He was carrying a small tin bowl when he started back towards my site. He held it steady as he walked and its clean silver edges reflected the sun’s early morning rays. When he put it down on the table in front me I saw two inches of water and a bounty of small rocks, each a different color. Some pink, others white, and a few the most peculiar of green.

“Those are jade,” he told me, "for my daughter."

Then he took one of the thinner, white stones and held it to the sun. "You can see through most stones," he told me, handing me the stone to see for myself. I did like he did and found light fighting it's way through the stone in three places. He gave me the stone and one other.

"Patrick told me there's some great trails around here," I said, all the rocks back in their bath. "Do you hike much?"

"No, not really. I like to ride."

I hiked alone; walking first over dry hills and then down a valley into deeply wooded forest. Something stung me in the nose at one point, otherwise I was alone with silence for the better part of the early afternoon.

I had two beers left from the night before and wanted to leave them with Leroy, who rather enjoyed the one I gave him before my hike.

He preferred to sit at his campsite, in a small chair with its back to the woods. With a few bits of bread laid out ten feet in front of him, chipmunks, birds, and squirrels took turns keeping Leroy company.

"I'm hittin the road," I told him, noticing all his gear (camping, cooking, cycling etc.) was neatly laid out on his picnic table. "Wanted to leave these beers with you. And thanks again for the stones."

"Oh awright, thank you."

I took three steps toward my car when he called out, "Here now," he said, holding a small black pot at the end of his right hand, "take this. I don't need it. I got two of em. Save yourself some money."

We shook hands.

I could see dust hanging in the reflection of my rearview mirror as I beeped my horn and waved goodbye to Leroy, Patrick, and Carolyn.