When Kiyoshi Hiyakawa opened his Inner Sunset sushi bar Koo in 2004, he hoped to escape the cutely termed, Americanized rolls of his former employer, Tokyo Gogo, and instead offer a more traditional selection of fish catered toward sushi purists. For the most part, he's succeeded. However, Koo's most popular, and in our opinion most enchanting item has perhaps the most gimmicky of names: Spoonful of Happiness.
"Spoonful" should be plural, as Hiyawaka actually creates two spoons separated by a shot of house sake. We opt to start with the ladel of sweet uni topped with a quail egg and spiked with a dash of tobiko ponzu. It slides down the throat all too easily, leaving an aftertaste of tart brine. Next, we shoot the sake straight down in a single gulp, utilizing its palate-cleansing capability, not to mention an instant buzz, before continuing on. Finally, we slurp spoon number two, a small hunk of ankimo (monkfish liver) sheathed in a thin slice of whitefish and finished with a few droplets of truffle oil. Fortunately, the truffle oil doesn't overwhelm the ingredients, but instead adds to the earthiness of the monkfish liver, stirring up pleasant memories of a Jewish grandma's chopped liver.
Each of these bites taken separately, including the shot of sake, easily charms the taste buds. Experienced all together though, the Spoonful of Happiness is a prime illustration of how a little bit of fusion and a lot creativity can really triumph.
Koo: 408 Irving (at 5th Ave.), 731-7077, www.sushikoo.com.
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