Anyone who has visited or lived in New York City for longer than the proverbial minute, understands that some of the best meals, most innovative chefs and authentic cuisine are in the kitchens outside of Manhattan.
Without naming restaurant names, many of us understand that the most memorable Greek and occidental Chinese food can be found in Queens, for Russian and Middle Eastern visit Brooklyn, Portuguese or Brazilian, venture out to New Jersey. Harlem still has some of the best soul food as well as “mom and pop” establishments and MamaSushi is joining their ranks and popularity.
I recently took the express train uptown, on an abysmally rainy Tuesday night, to find this restaurant consistently hopping with families, young couples and several birthday parties, as well as a dedicated staff for take out. During the duration of my six-course tasting, the door kept revolving like a turnstile at Grand Central.
While sushi rocks the room, what I found most interesting are other specialties with a pinch, dash and hint to several cultures by Chef David Nuñez. It’s a hodgpodge of Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Dominican, Hawaiian and more.
The Crabmeat Pot Stickers are a sight to behold. The dish is made with condensed passion fruit and mango sauce. While the dumpling was steamed perfectly, I found the sauce to be a little heavy on the sweet side. This might be a cultural thing but I like to save the dulce part for dessert.
Smothered in a very rich lobster nage sauce, the Pan Seared Striped Bass is flaky, tender and moist. It’s served with auoyama risotto and greens. It is very tasty and as dynamic as the United Nations with so many different flavors. Be careful not to indulge on too many appetizers before this course.
My most favorite dish was the Wagyu NY Strip Steak. Yet again, swimming in a sweet sauce made with an aged whiskey called Yamasaki. It also is accompanied by a porcini reduction, baby vegetables and roasted fingerling potatoes and topped with alfalfa. The steak was grilled perfectly but once again, something sugary entered the glaze. The portion is generous and possible to share if you want to dine ala tapas.
I once was told that, “people eat with their eyes.” This is true in the sense that we savor our meals by an appealing dish. Chef Nuñez is a master at making everything look amazing all the way down to the garnish — edible flowers.
Above all, the staff at MamaSushi is notably polite, efficient and professional; the menu is varied and the ambiance is upbeat with a great, local vibe. The portions at this tasting were so large that I couldn’t truly enjoy everything because I was “lleno” (stuffed). The young man sitting next to me wrapped it up in a sentence, “When you dine with Latinos, they’re going to really feed you.”
Try and save room for dessert. There is a wide assortment including fried ice cream, pistachio cannoli, fresh fruit and chocolate sauce.
Harlem is haute and dining out flourishes in the hood.
237 Dyckman Street
New York, NY