Saturday, February 19, 2011

A restaurant with staying power

A variety of Uma-Jirushi designs, taken from t...Image via Wikipedia
You can now buy Wild Ginger's unusual miso-and-citrus salad dressing at the restaurant.


Wild Ginger is special. If it wasn't for the eclectic mix of tables and chairs, you'd think this jewel-box of a restaurant on Englewood's main street is another one of the city's art galleries. 

But the real art practiced here is serving wonderful seafood -- both raw and cooked -- to a loyal group of customers who lend the small, high-end room an intimate feel as they are welcomed by Owner Charles Hamade and Chef and Co-Owner Yoshiharu Suzuki, and receive their personal attention. 

A man who drove in from Staten Island declared to others enjoying dinner: "Best sushi in the world." 

A woman sat down at the sushi bar and didn't have to ask for her regular order: A lobster roll followed by a sundae.

Wild Ginger opened 16 years ago. With only about 35 seats at the sushi bar and tables, you can watch Suzuki preparing raw fish or catch a glimpse of a waiter in the small kitchen ladling green tea into a pot.

The flavors of the seafood are pure. Order the black cod with sweet miso and when it's placed on the table, you might think the kitchen forgot the sauce. But the subtle miso flavor comes through as you bite into a perfect piece of barely cooked fish.  

On Friday night, Hamade invited me and Jason and Rachel Perlow of the Off The Broiler food blog to sample a dressing and sauces he is bottling and selling to the public. 

He served us a sumptuous meal of raw tuna and salmon, as well as cooked lobster, scallops and cod. 

Everything was on the house, but in the past, I have gladly paid for many meals that were as good as this dinner.

We started with a simple red-leaf lettuce salad in a homemade orange-miso dressing. Hamade is selling 12-ounce bottles of his preservative-free Baba Charles Celebration Salad Dressing at the restaurant for $6.

Next, we received a mound of -melt-in-your mouth tuna tartare in a spicy aioli sauce, another product he will be selling soon under the Baba Charles label. 

A salad of cooked lobster in his third planned product -- a mango sauce-- followed. Salmon sashimi came with a simple ponzu dressing he also plans to sell.

Suzuki sent us three fat, inside-out rolls: spicy tuna, cooked lobster and a mix of white tuna and cooked eel. Our entrees were cod and scallops, and I ordered a soft-shell crab appetizer. 

The Perlows tried one of Hamade's parfaits with dried mango and a dusting of red-pepper powder.

Wild Ginger/Wild Nigiri Hassun Sushi Bar, 6 E. Palisade Ave., Englewood; 201-567-2660. BYO, no reservations accepted. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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