The gift of good times
Sushi Roku’s summer menu favors fathers of the year
By Dan O'Heron 06/16/2011
Skip the tie: It binds in the summer. The best gift for dad this Father’s Day is a trip to Sushi Roku for dinner or happy hour.
Much more than merely a sushi bar, Sushi Roku offers a complete dining experience, whether meals are served on bamboo tables and enjoyed adjacent to trickling fountains or in the garden patio overlooking a courtyard. Picking up the tab for the restaurant’s new summer menu will elicit many more ooh and aah moments than you would ever hear while gifting a tie.
Even if your father isn’t that into sushi, your best shot at conversion may come from ordering the new premium “matsu” sushi platter ($36): It’ll be the surprise of his party.
Imaginatively displayed on sleek ceramic plates, “matsu” is comprised of an array of eight knick-knack noshes. Somehow, get dad to first try the morsel of seared “toro.” This prized cut of tuna, flaked with black truffles and marbled with fat, will melt in his mouth like a tender steak. As an intended consequence, dad will likely reach for others, like king crab legs with a dip of champagne/bitter sauce. Much sweeter than the body meat of the crab, the legs taste as fresh as if they’d just been sidling on the beach.
Enjoy moist, firm and mustard-colored sea urchin. There’s also softly textured premium tuna with avocado, mint leaves and Parmesan, and the broad-flaked, delicate-flavored pink and white flesh of red snapper (with mint leaf, sour yuzu fruit jelly and black sea salt). Enjoy the buttery texture and smoky flavor of yellowtail. Then partake of albacore, with crisply moist and sweet Maui onions, or salmon with cilantro, cucumbers and caviar.
Each “matsu” piece is just the right size to eat in one or two mouthfuls. Artistically and expertly prepared, the rice gently falls apart on the tongue, not on your fingers or chopsticks. The dish comes with a heap of ginger slices, which serve as a palate cleanser between mouthfuls. There’s no wasabi or soy sauce — “matsu” doesn’t need any help.
But if after all the effort to get dad to try sushi fails, Roku’s non-sushi summer stock and regular menu has Father’s Day written all over it.
A special dish for summer is American Kobe meatballs ($17). In this, you “unskewer” three meatballs, placing each in sweet and succulent butterhead lettuce cups that you string with onion ravel and dip into a mustard/soy truffle sauce. One bite will tell you the three ingredients were meant for each other.
Among cold appetizers, another summer dandy is the $7 “Renkon Kinpura.” Prepared from the crunchy root of a water lily, its creamy-white flesh has the crisp texture of a raw potato and a flavor similar to coconut.
From the regular menu, my favorite is the $32 prime rib-eye steak. With meat as flavorful as this, I ordinarily don’t meddle in side sauces. But they’ve come up with a “Japonaise,” a pan-seared brown sauce made from soy/garlic ponzu that adds another delicious layer of flavor.
Another inviting regular is filet mignon-wrapped asparagus ($14), created for dipping into a golden rice wine mirin sauce and served on a warm flat rock. Asparagus never had it so good.
Customers tell me that Roku tempura chefs must have hands that belong among blossoms, that the batter coating a $10 mixed vegetable morsels is as light as dandelion fluff.
For toasting dad with an imaginative pairing of food and drink, Roku offers sake by the glass from $6 to $20 and by the bottle from $29 to $190.
Chopsticks will be raised on high to praise an extensive wine list, which ranges from a $13 glass of “Two Left Feet” Molly Dooker Australian shiraz to a $340 bottle of Dom Perignon. Japanese beers cost from $5 for Kirin Light to $10 for Hitachino white ale.
If dad is too busy to spend a whole day together, you might want to hook up for happy hour.
On Sunday through Tuesday, enjoy an assortment of small plate samplers from $3 to $5, with a one drink minimum, which includes martinis and well drinks for $5.
The wellspring is served only in a comfortable lounge area of pillowed banquettes and suede ottomans.
A festive dinner at Sushi Roku — or even just happy-hour get-together — will tell dad how much you care.