International Dining 2011: Nisen

Jericho Tpke, Woodbury
Pan Asian and Then Some

Welcome to the place where eclectic is an understatement. Nisen may look like a typical (or not so typical) high-end sushi place, but it is much more. True, the edamame come out to welcome you just as you sit down, but that doesn’t mean they’ll chart your tastebuds for the duration. Chef Terrence Cave is offering a menu that is as slick, well heeled and internationally inspired as the fashionable venue owners Tom Lam and Robert Beer have designed.

The easiest way to handle the cuisine is to start right here in the USA and work your way around the world. Belon oysters are an oversized Maine harvest that flourish from September through December, so now’s the time. Originally from France, they happen to like it better here. And you’ll be glad. Served raw, on the half shell, they are steaky with only a hint of brininess, and no significant saltiness, benefiting from three accompanying sauces: Green Nisen hot sauce (shishito peppers and jalapeños), Cocktail sauce with charred jalapeños and Mignette (classic French shallot and black pepper sauce in aged sherry and red wine vinegar). Overnight braised shortribs come with roasted shallots on top and nutty turnip purée underneath.

Go Italian(ish) with parmigiano reggiano risotto with chorizo and Maine lobster that is smoky, earthy and rich, though loose enough to enjoy, and dancing with a hint of green herb oil. Head east, as in Far East, for a Haunting Roll (the signature sushi plate of the season) and enjoy the harmonic explosion of Japanese pumpkin tempura, shrimp, mango, black caviar, Kataifi (shredded phyllo), wasabi aioli and passion fruit coulis. Yes, all of this in every bite. No, you don’t have to like sushi to love this.

Finish in Long Island’s antipode (well, almost the opposite point on our planet). Wagyu beef is a staple where it originated, in Japan, but it makes its way to our shores from Australia. This unusual specialty is made up in artisanal salts, hard seared (thin, char-crisp outside; tender, juicy, rare inside), to yield a mini steak that is tangy, sharp, beautiful and served over melt in your mouth foie gras.
Last stop: Dessert. Fried oreos with green tea ice cream is like a zeppole cocoon with a softened Oreo middle. Poached pear in cinnamon and port wine is so meaty you could get confused, if the pumpkin ice cream and hot fudge weren’t there to remind you what you were doing.

Chef’s secrets: Shallots, thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, chervil, chives, red wine, cayenne, salt and pepper.