May 29, 2013

There has been lots of interesting Japanese food in my life recently, including some good sushi at Jabistro, but nothing better than an ethereal soft-shelled crab on Monday night at ND Sushi & Grill. I’ve written about ND before for Zoomer magazine but I hadn’t been back for months. It’s something of a joke in our house that the only night of the week when my wife ever wants to go out to a restaurant is Monday, when so many places are chiuso. Luckily ND was open and though we weren’t able to ask for the $50 omakase experience (amazing value but you have to give a day’s notice) we found plenty of treats on the menu.

I’m a big fan of ND. When they first opened last year, owners Andy and Jasmine Chon did everything, Andy in the kitchen and Jasmine in charge of the front-of-house. They now have a server so Jasmine can help in the kitchen. The room is plainly decorated but has its own spare elegance and an ambience of calm and dignity that is perfectly in tune with Andy Chon’s food. Impeccably fresh and precise, his dishes are always startlingly beautiful to look at. If you go, you should pay attention to the specials blackboard on the bar and order everything on it. On Monday that was three kinds of sashimi – hiramasa, hamachi and a shoyu-marinated salmon roe that looked like a tiny mountain made of rubies, fringed by red and green seaweed fronds and a ribbon of cucumber and topped with a jaunty dab of mashed daikon.

I could go on about the barbecued eel or the sublime braised black cod, but the crab is supposed to be our theme. I’ve had fried soft-shelled crab that comes across like chewy fish-and-chip-shop batter and others that have just been sponges for oil. ND’s was plump and juicy, delicately flavoured and coated in the lightest, crispest, most greaseless tempura batter you could wish for. The crab sat over a sharp ponzu sauce, made opaque with mashed daikon and chopped green onion so that it looked like a rock pool.

My wife doesn’t like soft-shelled crab but I insisted she tasted it. She immediately ordered one for herself. So crisp, so light in texture… The best soft-shelled crab I can remember.