This week, Besha Rodell is back to review Shibumi, the understated Downtown Japanese restaurant where the "music might say ‘dive bar,’ but the calm and focus of the folks behind the bar says ‘temple.’" It's all the work of David Schlosser, a chef who trained everywhere from L’Arpege to some of the world’s best kaiseki restaurants in Japan.
At Shibumi, the name of the game is kappo-style dining, where the chef cooks at a counter right in front of his customers with an elegance so deceptively simple that "eating here can be like discovering the elemental truth of foods you thought you knew well." That ethos translates into some stunning dishes:
Begin with a snack of cucumbers, which have been salted just long enough to make the cool snap and juiciness of the vegetable slightly more pronounced. In the place where the cucumber’s seeds would usually be found, Schlosser has packed a mixture of shiso, umeboshi plum, seeds and bonito. The dish is a study in contrasts, the pure, clean flavor of the cucumber coming up against three or four kinds of umami in the stuffing, but it also acts as a simple palate-primer for the meal ahead. [LAW]
Silky uni and tofu
Uni comes draped across a small block of egg tofu that has been doused in a slurry made from fresh nori, and the dish provides three kinds of silkiness and two kinds of creaminess that reverberate against one another in ways that are almost musical. [LAW]
Some of B. Rod’s favorite beef. Ever.
Grilled pork and beef are presented so simply but are of such high quality and have been cooked so well that you’re forced to ponder the elemental wonder of deeply flavored flesh and fat, its animal funk and tang. I did not fork over the $52 for four ounces of wagyu rib cap, but I did not need to. The $28 California strip, served with bracing but creamy fresh wasabi, offered the best bites of beef I’ve had in months, maybe years. [LAW]
The acclaimed Weekly critic concludes with some extremely high praise for the restaurant, equating the whole experience to "entering an alternate dimension," and muses that "this is what dive bars are like in heaven." Shibumi receives the coveted four stars, an honor that, before this review, B. Rod had most recently awarded to A.O.C. and Cassia over one year ago.