Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sushi's not just for summer

Warm chestnuts over an open fire.  Your grandmother's chicken pot pie.  Mulled cider and warm apple pie.  Butternut squash soup.  A spicy tuna roll.  Okay, one of these things is not like the other . . . and you can bet it's not the chestnuts.  Yup.  Sushi.  Now, I will willingly admit that cold, raw fish and seaweed are not generally what I crave after a day in the cold January wind, but I will also admit that Sushi Damo did a lot to change my perception of the winter consumption of this Japanese favorite.

Sushi Damo, from the outside, looks as cold, grey, and unremarkable as the rest of the west side of 58th street.  Located right across from the Time Warner Center, its facade blends into all of the other impersonal glass that is slowly encompassing Columbus Circle.  Once I passed through the glass door and into the restaurant, though, it was a different story entirely.  The interior of Sushi Damo is warm, cozy, lined with bamboo and black leather, and dimly lit enough to provide optimum lighting for a romantic evening.  We were immediately and gracefully greeted by a soft-spoken young Asian hostess that gently led us (me and my ever-adventurous cohort, Hiatt) to a quiet corner table and brought us warm lavender-scented moist towels for our hands.  I felt slightly like I was in a spa rather than a sushi joint.  Our adorable server glided over, introduced himself, informed us that he was new, and proceeded to tell us that it was happy hour.  Score!  I ordered a $5 asian pear martini and perused the rest of the menu.  Pretty classic Japanese.   A little pricey, but not overly ridiculous considering what I'm sure the real estate near Columbus Circle is putting them back.  If you're like me and you price a Japanese restaurant by its spicy tuna roll, this one was seven bucks.  If that helps, I'm glad.  If not, there's a priced menu online.  

Anyway, after sampling my perfectly prepared pear concoction and chatting with Hiatt a bit, I ordered an avocado and mixed green salad, a spicy tuna roll (for comparison with other Japanese joints), and a fabulous creation called a Neo roll that featured yellowtail, jalapeno, and kaiware.  All of it was tasty and artfully presented.  The fish was fresh, the salad dressing was (as in most sushi joints) liquid crack, and most of all, the service was exceptionally attentive without being obtrusive.  Sometimes I think that's key.  Was Sushi Damo the best sushi I had ever had?  Not quite.  Was it close?  Potentially.  I'm a diner with which ambience goes a long way, so, because of that, I will be frequenting Sushi Damo (despite its slightly higher-priced menu).  It was a far cry from the rudely bustling cafeteria atmosphere of Kodama and I was very thankful for both the anonymity of the table setup and the quietly bubbling zen music in the background.  Hiatt and I had a relaxing and peaceful dinner in a warm and cozy atmosphere and while I still wouldn't think longingly of a Neo roll in a blizzard, I will definitely not shy away from another winter visit. 

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