If temaki is still as foreign to you as Tokyo, read on. We tell you all about raw fish and rolls, seaweed and sashimi — everything you need to know to become a sushi sophisticate
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Master chef: Makio Idesako goes to work preparing what some are calling the freshest sushi this side of Manhattan
A hidden gem in High Falls serves up the real deal
It was 2005 and Makio Idesako had just closed up his Japanese restaurant in Mamaroneck after a very successful 16-year run. Satsuma-Ya had quickly become a popular neighborhood joint where regulars (who called Idesako “Mike”) raved about the freshest fish in town, creative culinary plates, and the welcoming reception from the bubbly Idesako and his family. But Idesako was looking forward to retirement. Then came the phone call from his friend John Novi, chef and proprietor at the DePuy Canal House in High Falls. “He wanted to add a sushi restaurant to the Canal House, and I was the first person he thought of,” says Idesako. So much for retirement. Two years later, the Amici Sushi Restaurant at the Canal House opened for business.
To say the locals were intrigued would be an understatement. Sushi — that modern must-have for the oh-so-hip — served up in the basement of a famous old stone colonial home? The DePuy Canal House was renowned for its old-world style and fine dining. How would the two mix? Apparently, just like sushi and sake. Within weeks, the word was out: for the freshest, most authentic sushi fix this side of Manhattan, stop by this hidden gem.
Exposed wooden beams and antique lanterns add to the rustic charm of Amici’s sushi bar, which seats four people in front of the chef’s station. Minimalist track lighting and a traditional countertop add a touch of modern style to the space. But perhaps the restaurant’s most delightful detail is Idesako himself, whose warm smile and chatty manner draw diners to the bar the minute they walk through the door.
Trained in Satsuma and Tokyo, Japan, Idesako came to New York in 1972 to perfect his craft and work towards opening his own restaurant. (Talk about motivation: As a young man in the city, he often played baseball in Central Park with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.) Armed with 10 years of training, Idesako worked as a sushi chef at Tokubei 86 and the famed French-Japanese fusion restaurant Cafe Seiyoken in Manhattan before moving to Westchester to open his own spot.
Idesako believes that his Japanese background and extensive training help set Amici apart from other Valley sushi joints, many of which are actually run by Chinese or Korean proprietors. “Presentation is the most important part of preparing sushi,” he says. “In Japan, presentation is important in all things, shown in Ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers. You want to make the sushi too pretty too eat, but delicious when it touches your lips.”
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