By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
As it was, we floundered around the menu but came up with a lot of winners. A huge plate of crispy baby bok choy ($6), flash-fried to a texture between a potato chip and cotton candy (if cotton candy were green and salty) was lots of fun. You think there's no way you'll make a dent in it, but the stuff literally dissolves in your mouth; it's like eating bites of garlic- and salt-flavored air. The bulbs, juicy little morsels, have more heft than the leaves. Interesting if way oversalted -- by the time we were through, we were gasping like a couple of carp out of water.
We followed the bok choy with a soup dish of Manila clams ($9), which were something like our native littlenecks. They were steamed in sake, about the size of a thumbnail, and in a broth with hints of floral, mineral, and a tangle of sharp-sweet lime zest. These were delicious, if just occasionally gritty. We ate the clams, then scooped the broth with their empty shells.
At Sushi Room, gyoza ($6) are called "Japanese Ravioli." My dinner guest, a fiercely Sicilian woman, has never left an Asian restaurant without a doggy bag full of gyoza to get her through the next day -- they're the next best thing to fried Italian ravioli -- and she loved these. Sushi Room's gyoza contrast soft and crisp, mild and spicy: lightly fried wrappers surround a dense pork stuffing laced with scallions and a dish of ponzu sauce. They were as good as any we've had anywhere.
A sushi combination platter ($22) -- nine fish plus a California roll -- came with a triple dish of sauces: a passion fruit reduction invented by Franco, light soy, and ponzu vinaigrette. The sushi chef lightly brushes a dab of horseradish paste between fish and rice, packing each bite with an unexpected wallop. Tuna, salmon, octopus, yellowtail, eel, shrimp, mackerel, squid, and snapper were all bracing, tender, and fresh. Our American palates, possibly not attuned to the complexity and subtlety of the well-massaged star of the animal kingdom, couldn't detect the difference between a roll stuffed with kobe beef ($14) and regular old tenderloin. In any case, the meat was more tough than tender.
You can order any of the rolls topped with caviar, price depending on the market. This is a nice touch, but I've read so much about the declining quality and availability of beluga lately -- from pollution, poaching, and illegal harvesting to downright counterfeiting -- that I wouldn't buy it from anybody I wasn't related to. Caviar emptor.
Dessert? Cheesecake tempura ($6.95). What's to say about a cheesecake tempura except that you'll eat it all and live to regret it? This dish has nothing to do with finesse -- it's fried cheesecake, for God's sake, and it comes with a hunk of ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup. Don't come crying to me later about your waist-to-hip ratio. Those beautiful girls over there picking at their sashimi aren't eating this stuff. But you will.
A final word for those beautiful girls. "Don't say that I'm married," Joey Franco pleaded, only half-teasing, when I telephoned. "You'll ruin my chances." Who ever said the wolf can't run a terrific sushi joint? You've been warned. This Brooklyn boy ain't your dear old grandma.