One would think that as a Harlem child of the ’70s and early ’80s, the range of food I was exposed to was limited to the great food of Sherman’s, Reliable, Sylvia’s and the fried chicken sold in the back of the Candlelight Lounge on Lenox Avenue. However, the person who introduced me to these Harlem haunts is the same person who passed down a love of Asian foods outside of Harlem—my mother.
I remember dim sum in Chinatown, especially the crab claw encased in a fried shrimp ball (loved those!) and spare ribs in black bean sauce (still get these!). Afterward, she would also stop to get ingredients so she could make her favorite dish, kǎo zhūròu shūcài miàn, roast pork and vegetable noodles. With the benefit of technology, I found the correct way of pronouncing it, but her way still rings sweet in my ears, “cow-li-chow-chu-main!” (Love you, mom!)
There was also my mother’s Japanese spot in midtown. It is all a little foggy now, but I remember being completely grossed out by my sister and mother eating sashimi (mom hates rice) while I got down with tempura. Now, many decades later, with a love and appreciation for and a 15-year career in food, I can happily thank my mom and sister for their “get down.”
Most of us can remember when there were no sushi restaurants in Harlem. The best you could find was on Broadway around Columbia, until Jado opened on Eighth Avenue (now closed, but thanks for the great food). Thereafter, Yuzu and Little Bamboo have stepped on Lenox, making their marks on the Harlem Japanese food scene.
The latest Japanese addition to Harlem is Sushi Inoue (@SushiInoue, 381 Lenox Ave., 646-766-0555, www.sushiinoue.com), and it already has garnered a coveted Michelin star. Sushi master Shinichi Inoue is sharing his passion and experience with his guests, from selecting and ordering the fresh fish from around the world to each perfectly prepared slice he serves.
When my bestie Raquel, who recently returned to NYC from living in Seattle, asked where I want to go for a birthday dinner, without batting an eyelash I said Sushi Inoue. We would have omakase (chef’s choice, means “trust me”) to get the full experience.
While omakase is best at the bar, it is $200 and $250 per person. Well worth it, I know, but we resigned to an outstanding omakase at the table for $90 per person.
The restaurant is BYOB ($10 corkage fee), but they have a small selection of sake served in a carafe imbedded with an ice holder. We chose an unfiltered variety that was perfect with the meal.
The chef started us with a tuna and preserved radish dish, and then miso marinated fish, setting the course for a gorgeous sushi platter filled with fish from Japan and Spain that included mackerel, fatty tuna, snapper and eel (like I have never had before); shellfish of scallop, spotted prawn and cuttlefish; and one simple tuna roll. Please note, you will not find a California roll or any crazy new-style rolls anywhere at Sushi Inoue.
Even dessert comes from Japan in their matcha crepe cake layered with matcha cream. The matcha pannacotta was a petite dream highlighted by the frozen pineapple and matcha green tea.
After a deep bow and a hearty “arigatōgozaimashita” (“many thanks”) to sushi master Inoue, to his attentive staff and to Raquel for the meal, Raquel and I strolled the avenue walking taller and with happy bellies.
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for more than 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at AmNewsFOOD@SCHOPnyc.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!