Monday, April 04, 2011


Actually, I'd give the food a seven, maybe an eight, but the restaurant is called Dieci, which is Italian for ten, and it's on East Tenth Street, and the owner-chef is Japanese, and the menu is essentially Japanese-Italian fusion tapas.

And it's very good, and it's priced right.

As with any small plates restaurant, your best bet is to order lots of stuff and share.

Some of the offerings lean more toward the Italian, some more toward the Japanese, some smack dab in the middle, though which is which is subject to debate.

And if you get there for happy hour (until 8PM, Sunday-Thursday) drinks are half price. There's a nice wine and sake list.

Many of the menu items are unique and intriguing. The duck fat edamame with Mongolian salt and shichimi (Japanese "7-flavor chili pepper") gives off its flavor from the pod as one pops the soybeans out.

I think my favorite item was the baby red potato gratine with sea urchin. The topping had a smoky flavor and a somewhat creamy texture from a bit of mayo in the mix.

My dinner mate was one of those poor souls who refuses to eat "red meat" even though in principle it's no less healthy than chicken or fish, and even though, as far as I'm concerned, a cow's life or a pig's is not worth any more than that of a bird or a fish. Which is my way of saying I had both pork buns to myself. They were good, and ample, and reasonably priced at $6 a pair. However, they were advertised as pork belly, but seemed more like pulled pork.

The garlic-anchovy sauce for their steamed vegetables is essentially a butter-based bagna cauda.

Black cod has become all the rage in Japanese cuisine in recent years. It's not a cod at all, but the fatty fish that old Jews know in its smoked version as sable. When I was a kid, sable was the cheapest of smoked fishes, but Japanese demand has made it into one of the most expensive. Dieci makes a version with a saikyo miso sauce, which is sweet and creamy. A little too sweet for me. But utterly fantastic was the seared yellowtail tataki with yuzu pepper sauce. The least interesting dish we had was the octopus salad, which was mostly a potato salad with a little octopus.

For dessert we shared an excellent green tea panna cotta.

Dieci offers a happy hour prix-fixe tapas menu, at $18 per person (minimum 2), that includes some of their best offerings. I think I'll give it a spin next time.

228 E. 10th St. (between 1st & 2nd Ave.)


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