The fusion of Japanese and Italian ingredients seems an unlikely mix. But Natsumi in Manhattan reaches perfection in the blend of Asia and Europe.
I believe that both Chef Haru Konagay and owner Barbara Matsumura are ahead of their time by bringing these phenomenal tastes to the world—the inseparable team of 25 years have created a new culinary destination at Natsumi. Founders of Haru restaurants, the duo spent two weeks in Italy working with owners of a restaurant and bar in Verona to create their own original recipes.
“Umami”is the process of blending ingredients to enhance their flavors. Although it was identified in Japan, in reality, umami is present in many foods used all over the world. For example ketchup, parmesan and tomatoes, soy sauce, and gumbo—people all over have been applying it without realizing it. The Japanese are proud of umami—it is regarded as the fifth taste after salty, sour, bitter, and sweet. It also creates satisfying food without being unhealthy.
At Natsumi, whether at the bar or the restaurant, one can enjoy many of those wonderful innovations, prepared with the fresh ingredients that Japanese and Italian cuisine relies on. One may find a new style of Carpaccio hamachi (yellowtail) with balsamic vinaigrette. Pair that with the Italian wine specially produced for Natsumi, and you have a wonderful innovation. In a place like this, one would want to try many of these creations.
Natsumi means “the reflection of the beauty of summer” and that is truly what one feels while dining here. The dining area has a traditional Japanese room divider and a motif of Koushi to create distinct seating areas. Through hotel lobby you will find the bar, a trendy and chic Tokyo-style lounge.
Although we wanted to try many of the finger foods, we decided to stay in the dining area to watch the chefs meticulously preparing the dishes at the sushi bar. We had quite a few samples from Chef Haru's original creations, each having different flavors that both played with and exited the taste buds. A playfulness a gourmand would appreciate.
Japan is known for its green tea. At Natsumi, it is used in the cooking process as well. We had the butterfly green tea ravioli ($12), stuffed with lobster and shitake filling and ginger. It had a rich flavor and was perfectly prepared. Next, we tried the seafood spring roll ($8) made with shrimp, salmon, Chilean sea bass, mozzarella, carrots, and Italian black olives. The crust was very thin and crunchy. It was accompanied with two types of sauces—mango and pomegranate. Do not miss the shrimp and vegetable tempura ($9.50). The eggplant tasted so good, sweet and delicate, topped with mozzarella cheese. This was cooked the traditional Japanese way—first fried, then baked—a must have. Here is the perfect example of umami—where the flavors were enhanced and enjoyable—reflected in every dish we had.
I enjoy the Beef Negima Yaki, thin slices of beef wrapped over scallions. We had the Beef Asparagus Maki with mozzarella cheese with homemade teriyaki sauce ($10). We then moved on to the Shrimp and Scallop Shumai, straw mushroom, steamed dumplings served with sweet chilli soy sauce. The dumplings were neither oily nor hard, of a good consistency and tasty. Black cod is a very popular fish because it is versatile and has a rich flavor. Here, the cod is marinated in sake miso, broiled and served with peanut sauce and asparagus. A true art and a joy to savor—a must have.
For those who appreciate sushi and sashimi there is plenty available from Toro (blue fin tuna) to Dolce Vita at very reasonable prices.
As for dessert, don’t miss the fried cheesecake!
Natsumi Restaurant is located at 226 West 50th Street, between 8th Avenue and Broadway.
Sunday through Monday 11:30 a.m. to11 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to11:30p.m and Saturday Noon to Midnight.
Natsumi Bar & Lounge is open Monday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Major credit cards accepted
Phone: (212) 258-2988