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Quick Hits: Vela, Geisha, Sparks, Yasuda, Montrachet- LONG

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Restaurants & Bars 1

Quick Hits: Vela, Geisha, Sparks, Yasuda, Montrachet- LONG

Chico | May 21, 2004 10:49 AM

Vela

Being a new restaurant it seems like they are still ironing out the front of house kinks- the maitre-d seemed overwhelmed and incompetent. Most people were waiting for tables and the room was crowded with early 30s women dressed to impress, and banker types in khakis and button downs.

Our server was very friendly and helped guide us through the menu. Rock shrimp tempura was typically awesome- the sort of irresistible dish that's tough to pass up. Lightly battered w/ some spice and fried, it was served with a soy based sauce on the side. Everything else was interesting but average. The spicy tuna roll lacked spice, the fried ice-fish roll would have benefited from fresh fried (read: hot)ice fish and was quite bland. Kobe beef skewers were ok, and the shrimp and sea urchin salad was a good idea, but felt like seafood with a wild greens garnish- I prefer my salads more composed.

Desert was pretty good- mini chocolate soufflé. Presentation was great. One more note- their specialty saketini with muddled cucumber and cilantro was awesome. I would have had 4 of them if it was not a school night. The prices were about average for this type of place- 160 w/ t&t and 2 drinks each.

Geisha

Checked out this spot on a monday night to avoid the crowds and had a light snack. The best dish I sampled was the spanish mackerel tartar- very flavorful and electric. I don't know if I have ever seen this on a menu before. The tuna caesar salad was a waste- a few romaine hearts with some cold seared tuna on the side. The spicy hamachi and avocado roll was attractive and creamy but not so spicy- continuing the trend of slightly oversized elaborate rolls at $10+. I didn't think the fish was A+ either. (the spicy negihamachi roll I had the other night at Blue Ribbon Sushi was suprisingly delicious- I still like that place but you have to know what to order.)

On a positive note, the piece of o-toro I had was very good. This could be a good place to sit at the sushi bar alone and get fed. The coconut blanc manger desert was interesting. Once again this place had some nice presentations but was a bit lacking in the food dept. Wouldn't go back unless I had a local date and didn't want to hit bond street or blue ribbon.

Sparks

I have always been a bit leery of Sparks ever since its expansion- it is now a huge restaurant, and I prefer Pietros or the hike out to Lugers. However, I was very impressed with my two steakhouse staples. My medium rare NY Strip was perfectly cooked, a little on the rare side just as I like it. The wet aging process seems to result in a very juicy steak and the seasonings were dead on. The shrimp cocktail was great as well- with 4 large shrimp. Is it me or are shrimp getting smaller these days? The place was packed early in the week at 9pm- I was impressed. The sides are pretty bad, I would skip them. I will certainly return soon for another steak.

Sushi Yasuda

Don't need to say too much about this place, but this was one of the visits that makes me believe it is the finest sushi restaurant in the states. Sat at the corner in front of Yasuda and went through the general fish progressions- ending with some cooked apps. He was in a great mood and was happy to see us and we didn't feel rushed at all. (sometimes I do feel that it is the most $$/minute you can spend at a restaurant.) The special trout was a great early fish, the toro and eel were top notch of course, and I still love the authentic kirin draft. $390 including T&T for 3- I thought it was a bargain.

Montrachet

This could have been the best of the bunch- it was too bad that this restaurant was very empty on a wednesday night. Seared Foie Gras starter was perfect- as was the duck entree. Usually I will have this meal at Jo Jo but I thought this was better. The portion sizes were just right and everyone at the table was enthused by their choices. The crab salad was a big hit as well as the roasted monkfish and sea bass entrees. As a nice touch, they brought us an intermezzo portion of the spring squash risotto which was quite good. Deserts were great- crème brulee, chocolate cake, and cheese plates. This place is well priced with entrees in the $25-30 range and the kitchen was firing on all cylinders that night.

Next up a restrained trip to Megu!

Chico

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