Sushi has been served for centuries in Japan, evolving slowly over time. In Brooklyn, however, it only took 24 years for the exceedingly popular dish to reach brand new heights.
At Montague Street’s Nanatori, which recently underwent a six-week renovation that completely overhauled the dining room and parts of the menu, the surprise doesn’t come from strange creatures and exotic concoctions, but what the kitchen does with the familiar.
Sitting in the dining room, now clad in dark wood with a splash of color coming from lanterns near the front window, Nanatori feels very much like a traditional sashimi stop; the sushi chefs wear uniforms and make their cuts behind a bar that acts at the room’s focal point. So, my friend and I were surprised when the first dish that we ordered — “chicken maki” — arrived oozing American cheese.
The friend is into health food, and I didn’t want her to judge me, so we both danced around the plate for a while, not daring to take the first bite. The chicken was pounded thin, breaded and rolled like a log. Inside, it was stuffed with the gooey cheese and a vegetable mix, and when it came to the table it had been sliced like a sushi roll. We each ran a piece through the sweet-and-sour sauce that it was served with and tossed it down the hatch — the rest of the roll was gone moments later. However unconventional, it was an apt, and delicious, way to start our meal.
As we moved onto our next plates, the oddest dish was again the most enjoyable. An order of shumai was a bit over-steamed and a Japanese take on crab Rangoon was delicious but heavy with a fried shell and mayo sauce. So when the “Tuna Martini” arrived, spouting a wave of noodles over the rim of its cocktail glass carrier, I knew we were in luck. The raw fish was tossed with a spicy dressing and sprinkled liberally with a crunchy roe, giving it both texture and flavor, and the just-right portion had us both enjoying the dish without feeling too weighed down.
Which was a good thing, since the next dish we tried was a hearty beef teriyaki. Normally I would avoid this, tasty as it was, because when I go out for sushi, sushi is what I want to eat. But I know from experience that sometimes the whole “raw seafood” thing creeps people out, and in those cases you need a nice, well-cooked piece of meat to placate them while you get your fish fix.
With the appetizers and teriyaki behind us, We were finally able to dig into some fish. A plate of salmon sashimi was fine, if a bit chewy, but quickly forgotten when spicy tuna rolls and — I was beside myself just ordering this — fried oyster rolls arrived at the table. Here again the chef’s ingenuity surpassed tradition in the taste department. What might seem out of place at your average sushi spot, crispy oysters with cucumber and a spicy mayo that tastes like a trip to the shore, fits in here and isn’t subject to inferior treatment.
Therein lies the charm of Nanatori. If you’re a fish snob with Nobu on speed dial, this might not hit the spot, but if you’re an adventurous eater with a taste for innovation, dive right in.
Nanatori (162 Montague St., at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights) accepts American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Lunch: $7.95–$12.95. Dinner: $11.95–$49.95. The restaurant is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 am–3 pm and 4:30–10:30 pm, Friday from 11:30 am–3 pm and 4:30–11:30 pm, Saturday from 1–11:30 pm and Sunday 1–10:30 pm. For information, call (718) 522-5555.