Two Times a Chef

If you're an enterprising young chef, it must be tough running only one kitchen these days -- friends and colleagues might think you're a slacker. With the February 1 opening of his Alias Restaurant, a more ambitious sibling to the terrific AKA Cafe (both offshoots of 71 Clinton Fresh Food), Scott Ehrlich (pictured) joins the ranks of chef-nomads like Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio, wandering tocques who hustle from one hot spot to another on a nightly basis. Since Alias (formerly a Latino rice and beanery also called Alias) is only half a block south of AKA, Ehrlich doesn't have far to go -- a good thing if you wear clogs to the office. There, in a dining room designed by Takehiro Murao, the architect responsible for Jewel Bako, and a kitchen twice the size of AKA's, he'll have more room to experiment with clever pan-American bistro dishes like fried rabbit and waffles, skate fish cakes, and, in tribute to a fading Lower East Side industry, a pickle-plate appetizer.

76 Clinton Street


William Grimes
A Sushi Showcase With a Cool Demeanor
SUSHI YASUDA looks like a restaurant that was headed for Tribeca and took a wrong turn. In the grim stretch between Grand Central Terminal and the United Nations, one of the city's dreariest restaurant neighborhoods it glows like a strange mineral with a cool. celery-green facade nearly as enigmatic as its emblem, is slightly blurry ink print of a sea beam, Manhattan has absorbed several sushi waves. The city abounds in modest establishments that serve up standard assortments of sushi and sashimi with a bowl of miso soup and a small salad to start There are temples of sushi worship, like Sushi" say and Konima Zushi, where top-quality fish fetch top prices. Somewhere in the middle lie the new wave sushi parlors like Yama and Tomoe Susht, where the diners are young and the owners would rather be corf than correct. Nobu and Bond Street have pushed sushi into new theoretical territory. Sushi Yasuda is different from all these. You feel it entering the restaurant, when the manager springs forward to slide open the glass door framed in hi ushed steely a Modernist shoji screen. Inside, the dining room is bathed in light. Floors, walls and ceiling are fined in blond wood.Thesevere hanqi»ettes are Upholstered in green-gray fabric. The refusal to decorate is almost palpable. The only color relief is a wall panel behind the sushi bar painted the color of green tea* The mood is quiet, contemplative, austere. But Sushi Yasuda has a lot of downtown in its soul. The manager and the waitresses are young. The exemplary service has an open, friendly quality to it, even when the server is performing a precise gesture. like giving a half-turn to the lid on a box of sharpened bamboo toothpicks, lt comes with the helpful announcement, "Bamboo toothpicks." At the same time. the menu is dead serious, a purist's paradise of multiple choices among fish species nearly 30, a startling number for a small restaurant — and elegantly presented appetizers and side dishes- Sushi Yasuda is a showcase for Maormch* Yasuda, formerly the star sushi chef at Hatsuhana,

BATHED IN LIGHT Blond wood and a contemplative mood surround patrons at Sushi Yasuda

one of Manhattan's deluxe sushi shrine s, and before that a sushi chef in Japan. Now Mr. Yasuda has struck out on his own with Hatsuhana's former manager, Shige Akimoto, and Scott Rosenberg, an amateur sushi fanatic Sushi Yasuda makes a point of carrying fish that most sushi restaurants either can't get their hands on or don't want to bother with. They never did have tasht uo, a member of the mackerel family called hair-tail fish, but there were five other mackerels to choose from, Buttery, velvet-textured hainachi (young yellowlai!) was only one of three yellowtaits on the menu, along with kanpachi (very young yetlow-tai!) and shima aji (yellow jack). The restaurant offers four kinds of eel (Mr. Yasuda started his career as an eel chef in Tokyo). And the prized fatty tunas, chiitoro (medium fatty) and otoro (super fatty), come In six ascending levels of fatness, priced from $4 to $6.50 a piece. At the high end, you are paying for that luxurious sensation on the tongue suggested by the meaning of toro, which is "melting." At $4, you get worsted wool. At $6, it's cashmere.But sushi is only half the story. The daily menu includes a small,, transparent sheet of special appetizers, and they are worth jumping for- At one lunch, the special list included two hefty slices of steamed monkfish liver in a (art ponzu sauce, and herring pieces fried so hot that not a molecule of oil adhered to the skin.
On another visit, the selection included a textural medley of six seaweeds, arranged like small tumble-weeds on a white rectangular plate. Deep-fried eel backbones, as salty and
crunchy as crisp bacon, hut

with a rich fish flavor, struck me as the finest bar snack ever devised. A pile of steamed clams arrived in a bowl of smoky broth, and a delicate egg custard, just this side of runny, concealed all sort of surprises little curls of shrimp, bits of potato, earthy slices, of mushroom and one very green, marbl^-siz^ ginkgo bean, for good luck. It is often said that the test of a real sushi restaurant is its omelet bought ready-made from outside suppliers at most restaurants- Sushi Yasuda makes its own, and it is excellent — dozens of compressed tissue-thin layer of egg with a crisp edge.The nonfish maki rolls provide simple single-note refreshment. Radish sprouts, in particular, release a quick burst of palate-cleansing heat, but firm strips of stewed squash fish, sweet but not cloying.offer another taste alternative to fish. Maki roils also come with pickled radish, kishu plum, pickled burdock root. fermented soybean and other stuffings.Dessert is not usually an exciting moment in a sushi restaurant, Mochi rice makes the difference at Sushi
Yasuda. Japan's answer to flubber, mochi is a highly glutinous rice that can be boiled out into a sticky, pasta-like wrapper ready for filling with something sweet, in (his ca,se homemade red-bean ice cream and green-tea ice cream. The ice crparn desserts look like smooth stones, an illusion enhanced by a mosslike dustingof powdered green tea. Simple, restrained and playful, tlie mochi twins are just the right characters to send diners away with a cheery wave.


Scientists claim that winter makes people depressed.
Less light = sad days.
How do we cure our winter blues? Comfort food. Wait,
only in wintertime? No -- anytime at Alias Restaurant, which opens today on the Lower East Side. Pedigreed chef Scott Ehrlich (71 Clinton Fresh Food, Lupa, Veritas) has created an Americana menu of what he calls upscale contemporary comfort food: duck confit, black-eyed peas, fried rabbit. Best-sounding dessert? Three mini-doughnuts filled with dulce de leche, orange cream, and chocolate.
If the food's not enough to lift your mood, the cheery interior should do the trick. Designed by Takehiro Murao of Jewel Bako, the small restaurant is draped in warm oranges and reds. Cutest feature? The old-school bodega-style sign on the storefront.
If all else fails (you've got it bad!), hit one of the new bars in the 'hood on the way home. But remember, sunshine, spring is just a few weeks away.

Alias Restaurant, 76 Clinton Street, at Rivington Street (212-505-5011
  Copyright © TM designs all rights reserved