Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Nanatori Japanese Restaurant

Remember Lichee Nut, the Chinese restaurant I wrote of two months ago? Nanatori is right on top of it, a short flight of stairs above street level. I'd walked past it dozens of times over the last few months, but never had a strong desire to go in: it looked no different from quite a few Japanese restaurants in the neighborhood. None of them look bad, mind you, but none looked to be remotely as good as Iron Chef House. (And none of them ever appear to have anything resembling the constant crowds of Iron Chef House.)

But when my parents were in town last month and we wanted to go out somewhere for dinner, the only requirement was this: somewhere close. It was freaking hot and we didn't feel like straying too far. Nanatori, being one block away, fit the bill perfectly.

Nantori's menu is huge and we all saw several things that looked, so we decided to order a lot of items and share.

But first things first: we needed cold beer. My dad, Elizabeth and I all had large bottles of Sapporo; my mom had Asahi. A cold lager hits the spot on a hot day, and Sapporo, while never being one of my favorite beers (not in my top 100, to be honest) worked beautifully.

We started with gyoza. I am not a harsh judge of gyoza. Like spring rolls, there is pretty much only one way I am going to dislike gyoza: if they are not hot. And these were hot and crispy. Sure, they were indistinguishable from hundreds of orders I have eaten in my life - and if I went to the freezer right now and pulled out a bag of frozen gyoza and then deep fried them, they would taste identical to these.

But, of course, that's not really a bad thing. I like fried gyoza.

The shrimp and vegetable tempura was surprisingly crispy, a light, jagged tempura batter than adhered to the shrimp with every bite.

I usually shy away from negimaki - far too frequently I have received fatty beef that I couldn't even masticate - nor would I want to, so often is it soaked in overly-salty soy sauce. But this was outstanding. The beef was tender and did not require chewing, it just kind of fell apart on the tongue. (It was also the hottest negimaki I have ever eaten, and Elizabeth burned the side of her mouth on the juices, providing an instant blister. "I don't remember the last time something burned me so quickly that I received an instant blister," she says just now and she sees the picture on my computer screen.)

On one hand it tasted really good, so part of me loved it. But on the other hand it burned Elizabeth, so... well, no, I guess I loved it all around.

The lobster ravioli sounded interesting, and really there was no way I could not order something with that name. Unfortunately, it was the only thing we received this evening that I just plain didn't like. The shell tasted mealy, I don't know what was inside but it wasn't lobster, and the mayo-based sauce added nothing at all. Nobody else seemed to care much for this dish either.

Fortunately, the next item up may well have been my favorite of the evening: black pepper tuna tataki. The tuna was pounded thin and crusted with black pepper. The ponzu sauce was fine but really this needed nothing else - not even the spicy sauce drizzled over it.

We had two different rolls: an avocado and asparagus roll, and the "Spicy Girl" roll (spicy crunchy tuna topped with salmon, yellowtail, avocado, and spicy mayo). I didn't eat much of these rolls - too much avocado for me - but I did not mind the bites I did have.

I liked the popcorn shrimp more than anyone else. This isn't terribly surprising, as fried shrimp is one of my favorite things in the world. Similar to how I felt about the shrimp tempura, I really liked the lightness and crispiness of the batter. I wish there had been a more challenging sauce than the "homemade spicy sweet sauce," about which there was nothing spicy. But overall these were nice.

We all enjoyed the harumaki - Japanese vegetable spring rolls - so much that after we devoured the first plate I immediately took it upon myself to order a second. Almost as hot as the negmaki and full of fresh vegetables, these are a solid 4 on my spring roll-ranking scale.

The service was great - probably the best I've had in Brooklyn Heights. In another case I might say something snarky like "Being the best service in Brooklyn Heights is like being valedictorian of summer school or the best reliever in the Angels bullpen," because overall the service in Brooklyn Heights is somewhere between not good and awful, but the service at Nanatori really was great. Our orders were coming out in less than five minutes and our drinks refilled constantly. When I placed the second order of spring rolls it seemed like they appeared in thirty seconds. (I'm sure it must have taken longer, it just seemed like they immediately appeared.)

I did not like Nanatori as much as I did Iron Chef House, but that's not fair: the latter was one of the most enjoyable Japanese meals I have ever had. But I was impressed with Nanatori. My main complaint is that the chefs seems to go a little crazy with the mayo-based condiments; I don't see any harm that would come from them easing up on that front... but that's not major complaint, I can always wipe off the excess sauce, as I did here. The food was good, the prices reasonable and the service great. I would be glad to return to Nanatori any time.


Anonymous said...

the meal looks fab, pp.

JustinM said...

That expression always reminds me of George Harrison. I really liked his solo stuff when I was a kid.

Long time ago when we was fab/ Back when income tax was all we had...

Liz said...

I didn't care for the lobster ravioli either. But everything else was REALLY good. I even liked the scorching negimaki so much I went for round two but kept my water near by just in case.