550 Madison Ave, Manhattan, NY
Certified by Orthodox Union
With the opening of his latest restaurant, Butterfish, Prime Grill owner Joey Allaham has ventured into uncharted waters with an authentic Japanese style sushi restaurant that defies comparison. While the kosher consumer’s infatuation with sushi shows no signs of abating, and dedicated sushi counters can be found in kosher pizzerias and supermarkets nationwide, the offerings at Butterfish are a world apart from what you typically find. Simplicity is the key for most of the menu items, with high quality ingredients prepared to exacting standards that let the quality of each ingredient shine through.
The newly redecorated space that formerly housed Solo in the Sony Building in Midtown is clean and tasteful, with seating for 90, including two private rooms. A separate tasting room at the rear of the restaurant is reserved for those who choose to enjoy an Omakase style meal, where instead of ordering off the menu, Chef Hitoshi Saito serves diners his picks of the day. The fish at Butterfish is probably the freshest you will ever taste, with the chef venturing out daily to select the best catch available and, in fact, the name Butterfish was chosen to reflect that extraordinary freshness, where the fish melts in your mouth like butter.
Our evening began with the BF Combo, a plate that might seem intimidating to those who, like me, have never really indulged in raw fish before. Joining two different types of sushi, spicy tuna and salmon avocado, was a piece of salmon roe sushi, thin pieces of sea bass resting on a bed of lemon slices, and several pieces of sashimi (raw fish to the uninitiated) and nigiri (balls of rice, topped with raw fish) incorporating a fascinating display of sliced blue fin, fatty tuna, ocean trout, yellowtail and belly salmon. Accenting the beautifully arranged platter were long shreds of carrot and daikon radish, a small dollop of wasabi and a small mound of shaved ginger.
Eating raw fish is truly an experience. You can feel the different textures of the fish and the subtle flavor nuances that give each one its own unique taste. I can’t imagine I have ever eaten fresher fish in my entire life and the simple accents provided by the carrots, the daikon, the ginger, the wasabi and the soy sauce meshed so well with the fresh taste of the fish. But the salmon roe was unique, with each little orangey pearl popping with salty flavor, and both types of sushi were deliciously flavorful. The rice, which for most people seems to be just the glue that holds sushi together, was truly lovely – pearly white and delicately flavored. Fresh batches of rice are prepared every 30 minutes, ensuring a wonderful contrast between the warm rice and the cold fish.
While the fish may be the star of the show at Butterfish, there are many other options sharing space with the sushi, sashimi and various cooked fish offerings on the menu, including soup, salads, vegetable dishes, and several beef and chicken dishes. We enjoyed an appetizer of chicken tatsuta, deep fried chicken in a light Japanese sweet sauce as well as the truly outstanding Kobe rib briand, which is an experience unto itself. Served in a cast iron oval pan, set atop a serving plate, is a brick of Himalayan sea salt, that looks almost like a block of granite. Thin slices of Kobe beef are placed atop the sea salt, which has been heated to very high temperatures and the beef cooks at the table, before your eyes. The resulting beef, accompanied by beautifully exotic maitake mushrooms, was incredibly delicious and extremely succulent, with a slightly salty flavor. Equally delectable was the gyu kakuni, boneless beef short ribs braised in sake for 12 hours, accompanied by mashed potatoes and delicate mushrooms. Though we did have knives, they were completely superfluous as the meat literally fell apart on our forks.