I adore Nishino. But I don’t get there as often as I’d like. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it’s in a rather odd location for most of my comings and going: out of sight, out of mind. Or perhaps it’s because it is a bit on the spendy side (but worth every penny of it). I’m not sure why but everytime I go I vow it will not take me as long to return.
A few weeks ago, M and I stopped by on a Tuesday night. The place was packed! So packed that, since we didn’t have a reservation, we almost didn’t get a table. However, since it was just the two of us, the staff squeezed in a little table in the dining area for us. Although we were not crammed in in any way, I chose not to take any pictures in deference to the people sitting around us. So you won’t be able to see how beautiful and scrumptious everything looked, let alone tasted! I also didn’t take great notes, for the same reason. So there are going to be some gaps here but this meal was so great I decided that I had to at least try to tell you about it.
Normally, Nishino = sushi and sashimi for me. But this night there were several specials that looked really interesting. M and I decided to do a little bit of everything (I could almost hear the kitchen… "What are these people thinking??" We decided to ask our server to bring things in the order he would suggest.
The first thing that came out, and something that I cannot believe that we actually ordered, was a plate of beautifully deep-fried Walla Walla onion rings. I know! Can you believe we ordered these?!? So very odd considering, but so very good! The thick rings were covered in a light tempura batter and accompanied by fried parsley. Yum! The batter was so light that you could actually taste the sugary sweet and tender onions.
Next out was the menu item that first caught my eye: Foie gras on tuna with shitake and red wine reduction. Foie gras in a Japanese restaurant seemed so contrary to me! And so intriguing, too. I always think of eating Japanese as eating healthy. And while I love foie gras and it makes me happy so I know that it’s good for me but I’ve never really considered it in the healthy category, exactly. Well, who cares when this dish was one of those that makes you think you’ve died and gone to heaven! Incredibly rich, smooth, luxurious textures and tastes. It all just melted in your mouth in one extremely complementary union. I actually wanted to stop right there since I didn’t want anything to replace the feeling of that perfect morsel of flavor.
But of course we didn’t – our other orders were already on the way…
Next came Toro Tartare topped with caviar and gold leaf with a few green onions. I almost broke my "no camera" rule for this dish. Exquisite! The presentation was so beautiful it seemed a shame to actually eat it. Well, for a minute anyway. Toro is one of my favorites in any case, but top it with caviar and how can you go wrong? And with this following the foie gras we were beginning to feel like little Queens for the Day. The salty tang of the caviar balanced the fatty, richness of the toro in a seafood Battle of the Titans where the opponents ended up shaking hands and walking away with their arms wrapped around each other – a true show of camaraderie!
And there’s still more…
Next was hamachi (the actual fish not the sushi) with jalapeño, fried garlic, ginger salsa, tomo soy and ponzu sauce. I always think of hamachi as a delicate fish but it held it’s own with the strong tasting elements. The key was that nothing was overdone or overpowering – all the individual elements supported the hamachi and the ponzu sauce was really great.
Finally we get to what we originally came for – our one sushi order of Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel to be exact. More distinctive than many other pieces you definitely know you are eating fish. Yet, when done right, as at Nishino’s - it’s a wonderful piece of the sea.
Well, that one order of sushi led to more. I mean, that was what we actually came for! Right? And since we had just been splitting all of the previous dishes it wasn’t like we’d had a ton of food, already. Okay, I’m trying to justify this next order but it just seemed like the thing to do.
We ordered more common items for this round: toro; ikura with quail egg; kampachi; and something with pickled plum – I can’t remember the name. While sipping our cocktails and tasting our way through these treasures we watched the tables around us empty, the energy of the staff relax and a little bit of quiet return to our surroundings. I was glad we placed this last order – even if it was a bit over the top. Nishino’s sushi is always made with the most beautiful, freshest ingredients and this order did not disappoint. It was a perfect way to end our evening.
As we left I made a promise to myself to get back there sooner this next time.