Another day, another downtown Japanese restaurant. Sachis on Clinton, which opened October 1, is part of the latest wave. Its an appealing, low-key place laid out a bit awkwardly between two storefront rooms. But its smartly put together, with dark wood floors, deep orange and gold walls, and a very cleanly designed sushi counter.
The house specialties, according to the menu, are kushiage (fried skewered stuff), sushi, soba, house-made tofu, and premium sake. This seems like too many things for one restaurant to truly specialize in, and Sachis, at least a few days after its opening, did not deliver on all counts. Some dishes were quite good, others not there yet. Service, though, was helpful and friendly. Id go back, but probably not right away.
Gomadofu ($8) was a lovely appetizer: a square of that fresh tofu, dense and fine-grained, with a mild sesame flavor. It was served in thickened shoyu, topped with a dot of grated fresh wasabi.
Sasazushi ($3.50 each) is an older, not so common style of sushi in which rice and chopped seafood are wrapped in a large bamboo leaf. We liked these quite a bit. The rice took on an alluring bamboo fragrance. Spiced pollack roe, salmon and grilled eel were all moist and flavorful. You can also get sasazushi with shrimp, scallop, or shiso and shibazuke (an eggplant pickle from Kyoto).
Nigirizushi: We tried sea eel, sea bream, mackerel, yellowtail and flounder -- all good but not extraordinary. The menu listed some of these fish as seasonal specials from Tokyos big Tsukiji market.
Toro oroshi ($20): One of those seasonal specials was toro. This appetizer was three slices of it, each cut as if for nigirizushi and set atop a small pile of grated daikon. On top was grated fresh wasabi and minced chive. The fish was good, if milder in flavor than Id had before. But this dish just didnt seem to be worth the price.
Kushiage: These need work. We tried scallop, crab claw (lots of claw, not so much crab), squid, chicken and shiso, beef, and asparagus, $2 to $3.50 a skewer. The ingredients tasted fine. But the crumb coating, while not thick, was heavier than others wed had (for example, at Azusa on East 44th, which does these well) and tended to break off in shards. Three dipping sauces came alongside: tonkatsu, seasoned mayonnaise, a slightly spicy ketchup. There was also a scattering of fried vegetable chips: lotus, parsnip, others.
Sake: Sachis highlights top-line stuff from Sudo Honke, a small kura (brewer) in Ibaraki prefecture established in the 12th century (http://www.sudohonke.co.jp/english/in...): Yusura ($12.50 a glass, $25 a carafe, $100 a bottle), Kakunko ($27, $90, $215) and Yamawatari ($40 a glass, $150 a carafe). We chose Sato no homare (Pride of the village) black label, $26 a carafe, and liked it just fine. Toward the lower end ($7 to $9 a masu) are Kira, Rihaku nigori, Kaguyahime (Bamboo Princess) and Tentaka Kuni (Hawk in the Heavens). Those kura really have a knack for names.
Sachis on Clinton
25 Clinton St. (between Houston and Stanton)