Restaurant Review: Sushi Nanase (4 Stars)

A tiny White Plains shrine devoted to the highest art of sushi.



There exists in white plains an innocuous-looking restaurant that may forever change your perception of sushi.

 

This is not the everyday sushi you get at that brightly lit neighborhood spot, nor is it the sushi of exotic and contemporary ingredient combinations found at such notable restaurants as Nobu and Masa. At Sushi Nanase, you will experience the very traditional, refined cuisine of old Tokyo.

Chef and owner Yoshimichi Takeda left Japan, where his father owned a restaurant, more than three decades ago. He has since been at some of the best Japanese restaurants in New York City—including the aforementioned Nobu and Masa. But neither the space nor the food at his year-old 18-seat restaurant tucked into a corner on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains bear any resemblance to either of those renowned hot spots.

 

Three small cubicles each seat up to four diners, and the sushi bar accommodates another six people. The décor is simple and classically Japanese. The menu is also classic, and quite lengthy: there are four pre-arranged sushi and sashimi platters, more than two dozen choices of fish by the piece, 15 different traditional rolls, and a handful of appetizers. In addition, there is an impressive list of sakes, both by the bottle and by the glass.

 

But all of this is just factual background. The soul of the restaurant lies in the hands and heart
of Takeda and his wife, Masayo, who single-handedly plan, create, and implement every detail.  

First, of course, is the rice. Chef Takeda seasons his rice—ever so subtly—with red rice vinegar, which was how sushi was made “long ago,” he says, “but now it is too expensive. And people want the rice to be very white, so they don’t want to use this. They choose to make the sushi pretty instead.” He shakes his head, and tells us how he carefully weighs salt, sugar, and what his wife refers to as  other “secret ingredients,” which are added to the rice with unyielding
precision.

 

More than knowing the rice is seasoned, when you taste the sushi, you sense something is different. The subtle treatment of the rice does not so much have a detectable flavor as it enhances the flavors of the fish. And oh, what fish it is!

 

Most of the fish is flown in from Japan, and is artfully cut in the traditional manner so often obscured by the American desire for “big.” At Sushi Nanase, beautiful jewel-like slices of fish glimmer atop a perfect mouthful of rice. A single piece of oh toro, well-marbled blue-fin tuna, offers a moment to be savored and appre- ciated. Pause then, and eat a piece of the ginger to cleanse and refresh your palate before sampling the orange clam. Could this sweet, tender, and robust nugget really be the same creature I’ve sampled so many times before—and found to be tasty enough, though chewy? A sip of sake, poured from a charming glass beaker, serves to cleanse the palate again, this time in preparation for sweet shrimp—and the feel and flavor of musky, rich botan ebi overtakes my senses, in the way a nibble of the best quality dark chocolate might.

 

Every piece of sushi, every kind of fish, was superlative. And in the late hour when no other diners were present and we asked a question about the salt he used, Chef Takeda brought out package after package of salts (were there a dozen or more?)—from ordinary sea salt to $50 pouches of an extraordinary fine powder that he had ordered from Japan—and which was the most ethereal salt we’d ever seen or tasted. Chef Takeda’s enthusiasm for his salts, and the passion with which he discussed the importance of matching the right salt to the right fish, paralleled the energy, knowledge, and careful consideration he gives to each and every ingredient and preparation.

 

Obviously, this is not the restaurant to stop at on your way home from work to get a quick bite of sushi. Go here to be reverent, to devote yourself to the pleasure and elegance of a sushi meal that may easily surpass most others you’ll have.

 

SUSHI NANASE

★★★★

522 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains

(914) 285-5351

 

HOURS: 

Lunch, Thur. to Tue., 12-2 pm (or first 20 people)

Dinner, Thur. to Tue., 5:30-10 pm

 

PRICES:

Appetizers: $4-$14

Entrees: $30-$85

Desserts: $3

   ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good 
   ★★—Good                       ★—Fair