At Sushi Yu II invention is part of the menu
by Adam Garrett-Clark
Many of the most creative dishes at Sushi Yu II restaurant can’t be found on the menu. Rather, they live in a black composition notebook beneath the front desk and document the bold roll combinations and starters that have sprung from the minds of the chefs.
At Sushi Yu II, the wood decor-ed sushi restaurant on W. 181st Street near Pinehurst Avenue, head chefs Jack Lin and Ding Zhang and manager Jimmy Liu refresh their special rolls on the white board once every few weeks.
When a dish becomes popular with customers it eventually makes it onto a sort of “best of” list, an adjunct to the menu. If a new dish doesn’t whet the palates of the patrons, it fades away.
But there’s one appetizer that has been creating quiet a stir, and refuses to leave.
“Sept. 24, 2008-yellowtail with jalapeño. $10” the notebook reads.
It was originally conceived to be served in wide soup spoons, manager Chen said, but so many people order it that it is now normally served on a plate, otherwise they’d run out of clean spoons.
Chen describes it as a simple dish, tasty year round but best in the summer.
“They try it the first time, they’re going to like it forever,” he said.
The dish is ordered 10 times a day on average. Chen has some customers that ask for the dish every time they place an order.
The preparation is fairly easy. Five sashimi slices of Yellowtail Tuna are sliced from the belly of the fish where the meat is the most succulent and tender. The sashimi is placed in the five spoons that are fanned out on a plate. A thin slice of fresh jalapeño is laid over the fish at the base of the spoon. Chefs then take care to place a tiny mound of Masago (smelt fish roe) over the jalapeño. Then each stacked spoon is drowned in a thin dark sauce.
“The unique thing is the sauce,” Chen says, which is designed to complement the yellowtail.
Chen, taking a serious turn, said he absolutely could not reveal what exactly is in the sauce, only to say that it is generally a mixture of honey, citrus, soy and yuzu sauce, made from a rare Japanese citrus fruit.
The dish is garnished with a lemon round in the center of the spoons and, curiously, a maraschino cherry on top, for color.
To eat these simple concoctions, you shoot it down like a raw oyster.
The tender cut of the yellowtail, tasting almost buttery, contrasts with the crispiness of the raw jalapeño, which only hints at spiciness. The whole thing is set against a citrus soy taste in the background.
The proportions of the ingredients are so important to the constancy of the taste of the sauce that only one man is allowed to make it. Manager Liu prepares batches of the sauce weekly and is credited with creating the dish.
The yellowtail rolls have continued to be popular and remain on the white board. But it’s only one of many new creations at the restaurant – there are plenty of pages in the notebook.
The Manhattan Times is the bilingual newspaper of Washington Heights and Inwood.