I’ll get to that in a second, but Marc and I arrived at 15 East just about the same time, as I was taking pictures of the outside of the restaurant (stupid food bloggers). Jo-Ann (co-owner) met us inside after a few minutes and gave us some options for our meal, asked if we wanted to look at the menu, but we agreed we’d rather be omakase-d.
We started with a daikon and carrot amuse-bouche (pic), a traditional Japanese New Year taste with a hint of vinegar. The first fish was the Tako Yawarakani; a poached octopus (pic). Slippery and salty on the tongue and firm to the tooth. This is one of those plates lot of people may not be able to appreciate because of the initial mouthfeel; it’s a consistency Americans aren’t quite used to, but if you’re an adventurous eater and you haven’t tried octopus, this is a great dish to start with.
Those two were the bump and the set before the spike of the Wild Striped Bass. The most photographable dish of the meal, fanned out like a rose with a flavor as delicate. Marc noted it had a flower (the name escapes me) shaved onto it that accentuated the flavor if the fish. Which reminds me, half the fun of this dinner was listening to how much this guy knew about food. He had the down low on everything the chef was doing, all the ingredients, all the cuts of fish. He could pin down the nuances of each flavor and what spice or sauce it came from and even some of the utensils the chef used. There was a paddle with a rough leather on it that the chef was using on a green root.
“See that?” he said, “that’s the hide of a shark. Probably the most expensive way to grate wasabi.”
He’s 100% top of his game here. I was in awe.
Oh, this was accompanied by the best sake I’ve ever had. What an impressive addition to the meal. I have had coffee houses and bars say “we’re not really known for our food …” I understand what the project looks like, but loving food does not mean neglecting drink. So back to the sake – I guess there were two cases of this sake in the city and Jo-Ann had them both. If I hadn’t needed to get up the next morning or write coherently, I would have asked for a straw. I’d never tasted anything like it before; it had hints of jasmine, newborn baby smell, and unicorn tears. Marc and I were flat-out astonished by the taste. While I had to cut myself off, he kept it flowing, and more and more things became “off the record” as we talked.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel like the pic of my Soba Noodles is a bit sexy. This was one of my favorite parts of the meal. The light saltiness of the roe balanced with the sweetness of the onion and the urchin was just a completely unique combination. After the meal, Marc and Joann talked about the difficulties creating soba noodles and I heard something about gluten, a rolling pin, and lifelong artistry. I picked up that It’s basically impossible to make proper soba noodles if you aren’t born in this one remote town in the mountains of rural Japan and study from age 3 to perfect the craft, but they have them here and they are frickin’ delicious.
OK, OK – I know you want to hear about this Tuna Flight. Five separate pieces of tuna delivered in a specific order. Words will fail me in describing it. but we had:
Akame – a lean tuna
Su Maguro – Lightly marinated tuna back
Chu Toro – One cut from the tail and one from the belly with medium marbling
Some were raw, some were lightly blowtorched; the jaw was shaved from the bone and minced. Each was served with a dash of wasabi and a few drops of vinegar and some were flavored with more complex spices. As much as I loved the banh mi at An Choi and the fries at Jane, the flight ruled the day. I didn’t even have to think. It was incredible. If it’s the only thing you get here, you will get 15 East.
For dessert: passion fruit panna cotta with mango and yogurt sorbet and bittersweet chocolate cake. Jo-Ann came to the table just before it was set before us and we started talking to her … I don’t know if she sensed my antsiness, but I kept turning around to look at the desserts, turning back to Jo-Ann … desserts, Jo-Ann, desserts. I couldn’t take it any more and dug in as Marc got heated up about something he saw on Food Inc. and Jo-Ann explained her theories on parenting in the McDonald’s age (her little girl always walks on the side of the street opposite of any McD’s). The creamy, sweet passion fruit pudding won the dessert battle, but the chocolate cake was no slouch; it was borderline mousse-like.
The icing on the cake. Everything was immaculate. We left 110% satisfied, and when it was over, it felt like our chef had turned the lights down, put on some Barry White, handed us a glass of Courvoisier, and made love to our taste buds all night long.
Guest Writer: Marc Masumoto
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank 15 East for providing this meal.
15 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003