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Manhattan

Matsuri (long)

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Restaurants & Bars 1

Matsuri (long)

Daisy | May 27, 2004 02:05 PM

Last Friday, my friends and I were shut out of Spice Market when one of our party arrived 40 minutes late (grrrr!). By this time it was close to nine, and after calling around a bit we were beginning to despair of getting a table for four anywhere at such short notice. We took a chance and went a couple of blocks uptown to Matsuri, where we were lucky enough to score a table immediately. It's a beautiful, beautiful space; dark, sleek and spare yet glamourous, and although the walls, tables,etc. are dark and the lighting is subtle it was not too dark to read the menu, a pet peeve of mine with trendy restaurants. It was lively without being frenetic and if the staff we dealt with are any indicator then the people who work at Matsuri could not be nicer. The service was very good--our waiter was extremely knowledgable about the very extensive menu, which while thematically all Asian still managed to be all over the place. There is an encyclopedic sake list which will have to be explored at a later date. This was a celebratory dinner, and the husband of one of our party had generously given her $100 for the first bottle of champagne, so we went to work on the Veuve Clicquot. I think it was either $85 or $95 which seems a bit high to me even for such a loungy and allegedly hip place. I was not impressed by the sushi we had, but I was with an unadventurous group sushi-wise who ordered two spicy tuna rolls and a hamachi roll, which were---eh. The rice was a little mushy and while the rolls didn't taste bad they didn't really taste very much of anything at all. The one exception was an eel roll wrapped with cucumber instead of nori--this was quite good, perhaps because it was not on the menu and was produced when my friend requested it specially. But everything else we ordered ranged from good to amazing. Edamame were good and very fresh-tasting, a special of seared bonito with yuzu jelly was dark, velvety and rich;incredibly tiny kumamotos served with tobiko were very salty but briny and tasty, wild mushrooms steamed in parchment were woodsy and satisfying, grilled chicken skewers were well-cooked and juicy if unexciting. The 'amazing' would be the salted and grilled yellowtail collar. This item is on the regular menu-- run don't walk to Matsuri to sample it. The crisp, salty skin offers the perfect counterpoint to the succulent flesh beneath. We attacked it with our chopsticks and managed to pretty much strip it to the bone. My friend, not normally a fish lover, told me several days later that she is dying to go back and order it again. Someone at our table, after dinner and two bottles of champagne, decided that we absolutely had to sample a fancy pear martini, which I have to say was pretty tasty if not an ideal digestif. Matsuri is not cheap--two bottles of champagne, four cocktails and all the above food came to $110 each (with a generous tip--we loved our waiter). One quibble--the napkins while made of pretty polka-dot fabric are absurdly small, like the size of cocktail napkins, and made of very thin fabric. Busboys kept showing up with new napkins, so it wasn't too horrible, but why not just provide adequate napkins to begin with?

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