Reservation for One: Sayachi

Photos by Aaron Leimkuehler.

There’s a quiet power to the dishes at Sayachi, the latest restaurant from chef Carlos Falcon and his wife, Sayaka.

While the couple’s two metro Jarocho Pescados y Mariscos locations pay tribute to Carlos’ roots—the chef grew up in the coastal city of Veracruz, Mexico—Sayachi nods to Sayaka’s Japanese heritage, bringing the stellar seafood from Jarocho to a concept where the quality of the fish can shine even more.

The Falcons smartly recruited sushi chef Miyoshi Yamada, who brings decades of experience preparing sushi, and it shows. He seems to venerate fresh fish, treating it with a blend of love and surgical precision that comes through in each bite. When the raw ingredients are this good, you don’t have to do much with them but know when to take a step back. The Hamachi nigiri is buttery and luxurious, while the negitoro, a maki roll of fatty tuna and scallions, pairs its deceptively simple ingredients into a delight, the sharpness of the scallions cutting through the richness of the toro. The sophisticatedly presented spicy scallop hand roll celebrates the mollusks’ natural sweetness and texture with a heat that takes a few moments to hit your taste buds.

Left: Rice bowl with sashimi. Right: The Miyazaki

Sayachi serves up just a few signature rolls, including the Ensenada, which comes the closest to delivering a little of Carlos’ Mexican flair via sushi with Ensenada fish, shrimp tempura, jalapeño and avocado. The thin slices of pepper dotted with Srirachi deliver a kick of heat.

The restaurant’s other sushi offerings are extensive, and include classic maki rolls as well as white fish, salmon, blue fish, shellfish and roe nigiri and sashimi, plus takes made with cooked ingredients, like saltwater eel, steamed abalone, and foie gras.

As delicious as the sushi is, an entirely different item runs away with the limelight at Sayachi: the agedashi tofu is at once unlike anything you’ve ever tasted and comfortingly familiar. A sea of flavor is condensed into a single bowl. Poured tableside over a tower of lightly crusted tofu, the dashi broth is sweet with just the right amount of salt and a smokiness that builds as you return spoonful after spoonful.

Other appetizers include well-seasoned pork gyoza and fresh pacific oysters. In addition to sushi, Sayachi features entrees such as grilled fish, baked live lobster, and Japanese boneless fried chicken as well as a handful of noodle dishes.

Chirashi roll

Like its menu, Sayachi’s aesthetic is fairly minimalist—the space is small but not packed with tables and chairs. The walls are decorated with murals of a cherry tree and goldfish, but they blend into the restaurant rather than jumping out. A small bar with floating shelves full of liquor sits near the restaurants entrance while a counter seating nine is positioned toward the back. Here, diners can indulge in omakase, an almost meditative style of dining where the chef designs a menu for guests and can be observed preparing one course for each person before moving on to the next. The experience is available by reservation.

Despite its simple appearance, the bar produces a long list of surprising, flavorful cocktails. The Japanhattan puts a Japanese spin on the classic drink with Shiitake Nobushi Whisky and pickled shiitake mushrooms. The drink arrives in an elegant cut-glass dish filled with cherry smoke that swirls over the glass even when it’s been liberated from its container, infusing the cocktail with a subtle, smoky sweetness. The mushroom flavor stands out, but it’s more complementary to the other flavors than you might initially think. The bar program, headed up by Matsumoto Mari, is full of these compelling creations. Her Komorebi combines matcha with green-tea shochu, egg white, lemon, sato and cream, for a silky drink the celebrates the earthiness of the powdered tea while balancing it out with a touch of sweetness and citrus. A skewer of toasted mochi rests atop the coupe glass, a sugary surprise.

Mochi also pops up on the dessert menu, along with matcha cheesecake bites, but you almost don’t need it. With fish this good, it’s a shame to save even a centimeter of room for dessert.

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