By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Even though some of the dishes had slip-ups, with Mai at the helm, the pacing of our meal couldn't have been more perfect. At the clip she set, our dinner was as pastoral as the paintings of French farmland hanging on the nearby walls. With a sort of gracious calm, she ensured our courses never arrived too quickly or with too much delay. We focused on our bottle of Loire Valley Vouvray, a sweet, crisp white that at $32 was a bargain among Sharaku's small list.
If Sharaku has a major fault, it's that both the décor and the food seem to try to be as unobtrusive as possible. Although Kaita might have rightly veered from the complex dishes he started with, what's left is almost too delicate. That was the case, anyway, with my pan-seared scallops ($23), three large divers that were a pearly white but looked as if they'd never seen the caramelizing heat of a hot sauté pan. From first glance, I could tell the dish would be dull: The scallops themselves had no "sear" to speak of, and the orange sea urchin sauce looked watered down from the vegetables plated alongside it, a mix of woody shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and white asparagus. I noticed the same problem with a sauté of Maine lobster and shrimp ($24) — the shellfish was impeccably cooked, but the wasabi soy sauce promised on the menu was almost nonexistent.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, one of my guests complained endlessly about the strength of the miso sauce on top of her Chilean sea bass. "The sauce overpowers everything," she said, unable to finish even half of the meaty fish. I ended up giving her my scallops in exchange for the sea bass, and I think we both ended up happier.
Unless of course, it's with dessert, which Kaita nails. We had the superb chocolate soufflé served in a teacup ($8), the crusty crown hiding a payload of rich, molten filling. On the side was a scoop of homemade ice cream dotted with black flecks of vanilla. Just as rewarding was a round of rich chocolate mousse ($7) topped with flecks of shaved gold.
Sure, there was nothing complex about either dish, but both evoked Kaita's passion better than any complex offering could. Here's to hoping he keeps refining. A restaurant as well articulated as those two desserts will always have a place in this town.