Photography by Dawn Smith/Shaffer Smith Photography
When the weather gets steamy, nothing seduces like sashimi. Cool when your body is hot, eating sashimi on a summer night is as pleasurable as slipping into the cool, refreshing ocean. Of course, the Japanese aren’t alone in appreciating raw pleasures. In the Americas, ceviche has been a beachfront staple for centuries. Like sushi, ceviche is a calorie-counter’s savior: it’s so tasty and satisfying, you’ll never feel deprived. Nor have Europeans missed the raw boat. Raw oysters, tasting like tiny sips of the sea, have been relished forever. And even carnivores can enjoy the charm of raw: look for classic beef tartare on steakhouse menus. This summer, when the days get steamy and hot meals are just too much, slide into the pure, cool waters of raw.
Nessa, Port Chester’s enoteca-cum-panini palace, offers the traditional Venetian raw-beef salad. It starts with tender, lean, eye-round, sliced paper-thin and drizzled with truffle oil and a light, house-made mayonnaise. Topped with crunchy pine nuts, quartered artichoke hearts, and shaved 24-month-old Pecorino-Romano cheese, this cool, salty, and peppery bite is served with oil-brushed toast triangles. Paired with a bottle from Venice’s Friuli-Venezia, it’ll make you feel as if you’re sitting on the Grand Canal—but without all the tourists.
Nessa 325 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 939-0119; nessarestaurant.com
Toro Two Ways
Toro, or the fatty belly of bluefin tuna, is like any of those other rarefied, superfatted proteins (we’re thinking here of Kobe beef and foie gras): it offers the ethereal pleasure of delicate flesh amped up with lots of lush, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth fat. Pink, totally unfishy, and almost insubstantial in texture, toro is the highest-priced part of bluefin tuna, which is already one of the priciest fish on the market. To sushi chefs, bluefin toro is their most precious commodity, often listed at market price, and costing chefs $60 per pound or more. Chef Peter Kelly’s showcase for this costly delicacy is “toro two ways,” a boxed wonder that offers both toro sashimi and toro tartare. While the toro sashimi offers the purest bite of the flesh (it’s simply garnished with the exotic, perfumy flavor of hanaho flower), Kelly’s toro tartare is a more savory morsel. Here the delicate bluefin belly is served with chilled yuzu ponzu, and rich Greek yogurt scented with raspberry compote and shichimi.
X2O Xaviars on the Hudson, Dylan Lounge 71 Water Grant St, Yonkers (914) 965-1111; xaviars.com
Pineapple and Mint Salmon Ceviche
According to Chef Rafael Palomino, the legend of ceviche goes like this: Peruvian fishermen once found themselves stranded in an open boat with only limes on hand to prevent scrurvy. Having run out of ship’s biscuit, and not wanting to risk an open fire, the fishermen made do with what they had, namely raw, just-caught fish, sea salt, and freshly squeezed lime juice. The result was ceviche, and it’s been a shore-front delicacy ever since.Nowadays, creative chefs are using all sorts of fish, as well as herbs, juices, and fruit, to expand on ceviche’s simple concept. Here, we see Chef Palomino’s pretty take on the dish, available at Port Chester’s Pacifico. It’s made with rich, buttery fleshed, sashimi-grade king salmon paired with the palate-cleansing acids of lime and orange juice, and the sweet, fruity complement of pineapple.
Pacifico 316 Boston Post Rd, Port Chester (914) 937-1610; pacificony.com
Yellowfin Tuna, Soused Watermelon, Sarawak Pepper, and Lime Salt
Chef Neil Ferguson’s take on raw employs the current trend of serving sweet melon in savory preparations. When the fruit’s overwhelming sugar is tamed by lime juice, salt, and lime zest, the melon’s herbal notes are intensified—and the fruit emerges from its shower more flavorful, varied, and interesting than its sweet, wan, Sunday-picnic brethren.Ferguson’s savory melon makes a perfect foil for creamy, immaculately fresh yellowfin tuna slices, which have been seasoned with precious Sarawak pepper from Borneo. This spice’s distinctive, mouth-numbing flavor adds heat and texture to the dish, while lime salt underscores its floral notes.
Monteverde at Oldstone Manor 28 Bear Mountain Bridge Rd (Rtes 202 and 6 West), Cortlandt Manor (914) 739-5000 monteverderestaurant.com
Saturday Night Roll
The polar opposite of formal Sushi Nanase in White Plains, at Sushi Mike’s, traditional Japanese sushi is given an irreverent ride with unusual, American-style maki. Where Sushi Nanase is quiet and small, Sushi Mike’s is thronged and noisy: look for a boisterous crowd and, on weekends, long lines.Of all the American-style maki on offer (including Mike’s Out-of-Control Roll, American Hero Roll, Kamikazi Roll, and Out of this World Roll), we’ve chosen Sushi Mike’s Saturday Night Roll. It features wildly unorthodox Philadelphia cream cheese, along with crab salad, chopped yellowtail, spicy salmon, tuna, and fried garlic chips. We figure that, when it comes to great food, authentic-shmauthentic; let’s just say it’s delicious.
Sushi Mike’s 146 Main St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 591-0054; sushimikes.com
As the success of gonzo eaters like Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain attest, there’s a new interest in outré gastronomy, as in bugs, eyeballs, and cuts of meat not mentioned in polite company. While many of these dishes are exotic, we feel there’s nothing as freaky as the European classics—we’re thinking here escargots, foie gras, and, our personal favorite, steak tartare. Flouting the warnings of the FDA, steak tartare is a raw beef dish that features raw egg yolk. Croton Creek’s version is made with prime filet mignon, hand-ground with shallots, Dijon mustard, lemon thyme, and parsley (in the interest of not shocking its customers, Croton Creek pre-mixes the yolk into the dish). Heightened with a touch of cayenne pepper, this carnivore’s dream is served with olive oil-drizzled, toasted ficelle slices.
Croton Creek Steakhouse & Wine Bar 4 W Cross St, Croton Falls (914) 276-0437; crotoncreek.com
Omakase Sushi Served With Traditional Accompaniments
Don’t try to get in without a reservation, don’t expect to sneak out for more than a minute, and don’t look for a swank dining room. If you’ve accepted all these conditions, then head down to Sushi Nanase for Westchester’s most traditional Omakase. This chef’s choice menu, prepared by Yoshimichi Takeda, features a seasonal roster of sushi and sashimi, often spiked with exotic Japanese herbs and rarefied salts. As befits a chef who worked at both Masa and Nobu, Takeda brews his own soy sauce and serves only the most pristine seafood available. If you’re lucky, you’ll find Takeda’s creamy, raw scallops with sea salt and earthy black truffle, or, our favorite, yellowtail with olive oil and blood oranges. Here, the firm slices of immaculately fresh yellowtail are slightly warmed in Takeda’s knowing hand, then served in an earthy olive oil brightened by spicy blood oranges. This dish is a textural marvel, in which the firm-fleshed member of the jack family yields to bursting-with-juice blood oranges—it bridges ocean and earth, sweet and salty, and is scented by fruit-laden breezes. It is, in a word, divine.
Sushi Nanase 522 Mamaroneck Ave White Plains (914) 285-5351
Carefully Sourced, Exotic, and Boutique Raw Oysters
Chef Brian Galvin’s an admitted oyster nut, as is evident from Ocean House’s menu. This tiny Hudson-side seafood house always stocks at least eight varieties of boutique bivalves, which range from East to West Coast, with the occasional French Belon thrown in. They’re served the traditional way: on ice with cocktail sauce and the brightening condiment, mignonette sauce, here made with red wine, vinegar, shallots, cracked pepper, and a hint of Worcestershire sauce. While Chef Galvin’s oyster roster changes daily (and often features rarities like Tomahawks from Martha’s Vineyard and Seal Rock from Washington State), on the day of our visit we caught the selection pictured here: Fanny Bay from British Columbia, Malpeque (Prince Edward Island), Saddle Rock (CT), Saint Simon (Nova Scotia), Portage Island (ME), Gold Creek (WA), and Wellfleet (MA).
Ocean House 49 Riverside Ave Croton-on-Hudson (914) 271-0702