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Shoji at 69 Leonard

foodwhisperer | Dec 22, 201710:09 PM

I dined at 69 Leonard Street tonite. I've been to the space before but this was my first time under its new name and new chef. Chef Derek Wilcox is a skilled American chef who has spent many years living and working as a chef in Japan. He is a very nice guy with a pleasant demeanor and confident command of his space.
The chef apprenticed 7 years at Kikunoi Honten in Kyoto. A 3 Michelin starred kaiseki restaurant.
He also spent some time working at Kitcho ( also 3 star Michelin) and the most expensive restaurant in Japan. in addition to that he worked making sushi at Sushi Aoki in Ginza and did a kaiseki collaboration with chef Aoki-san in his Nisei-Azabu branch.
On to my meal. I believe the ultimate goal of the restaurant will be to be traditional/creative kaiseki restaurant. Presently it seems to be a mix of kappo/and sushi. Interestingly, the menu will change for regulars, to make their experience different each visit. Of course sticking to seasonal and the highest quality ingredients.
The courses: (photos attached)
Off to a nice start, Peconic Bay Scallops in a delicious sauce ( I did not take notes and forgot details)

The next course was a beautifully arranged, thinly sliced Tai sashimi arranged in a fan shape and slice of what I think was kiwi but looked like a miniature watermelon.

Then an amazing sashimi of Buri belly with purple daikon on a shiso leaf. Can I say OMG? This was the most amazing Buri I have ever had. The color the texture.

The next course was a steamed shirako with black truffles resting on a piece of konbu in a lemon peel.
A fantastic dish with great balance of flavor. The ceramic plate the dish was served on was also a work of art.

Grilled octopus accompanied with chrysanthemum leaves was the next dish, and really good tasting octopus that went well with the leaves.

This was followed by a Pacific oyster ( I think it was steamed), it had nice flavor to it.

Then we move to sushi. The shari is Koshikari rice from Tamba. The owner and chef after much experimentation found this rice worked best with the water we have in NYC. The shari was excellent.
It was made with a blend red vinegar ( the highest quality variety) mixed with very good rice vinegar, sake lees, and possibly another ingredient. The rice wasn't overpowered by the red vinegar, like some sushi shops that use 100% red vinegar.
The first piece was ika ( cuttlefish). Very well prepared. Did you know cuttlefish and squid and different shape eyes?
The gari that accompanied the sushi was quite good.
The next piece of sushi was the beautiful looking kohada. I enjoyed the kohada,
Then Nodoguro aka Akamutsu ( blackthroat sea perch or rosy sea bass) , an expensive fish but well worth it. delicious. The chef at Brooklyn Fare loves this type of fish btw.
Then tuna zuke, with a twist. It is coated with egg yolk instead of soy sauce. A delicious piece of sushi.
This was followed by Otoro. It melted in your mouth and was delicious. Color-wise it seemed closer to chu-toro but chef said it was otoro. Regardless, it was so good.
Kuruma ebi( tiger prawn) was the next pieces of sushi. It was cut in half and it was suggested to eat the tail half first. There was a subtle difference between the head half and tail half. The chef makes sure he buys live kuruma ebi. He stated that many restaurants and fish suppliers ship or use dead ones. Wilcox-san makes sure he gets the best.
This was followed by Sayori ( needlefish) sushi. A good progression of fish so far.
Hokkaido uni was next and very delicious.
The next piece was Anago. I knew we had reached the finish of the symphony. Very well prepared. Many places are not careful and you get a bone in it.
Two pieces of a tuna cut roll were served next. Followed by a creamy white miso soup, with ginger in it.

The chef then asked if I wanted any more sushi. I didn't want to ruin the progression although I had room for one more piece. First he offered Boston mackerel which he said was special. I thought that would not be a good way to finish, Then as I was sipping my sake, he offered ika geso.( cuttle fish legs) My eyes lit up, and I said YES.
It went nicely with my last bit of sake. A chewy wonderful choice.
I always have room for dessert, and I was served coconut granita with pineapple and redbean on the bottom. Delicious.
That followed by a Japanese fruit cake accompanied by yuzu marmalade and creme fraiche.
A fantastic meal.
Beverage list was excellent. Sommelier was nice, knowledgeable and helpful. Service was excellent.
The cost was $257 for omakase. Tips were included. Extra pieces of sushi additional charge.
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