The Japanese word “omakase” literally translates to “entrust,” meaning that if you order the omakase menu at a restaurant, you are entrusting the chef with your meal. He (or she) is responsible for delighting your palate, allowing you to simply relax and enjoy each course as it comes.
That’s exactly what my dinner companion and I did during a recent dinner at Zuma, the midtown “contemporary Japanese” restaurant with an epic omakase menu that fuses western and eastern cuisine. Started in London in 2002 by the German chef Rainer Becker and the restaurant investor Arjun Waney, Zuma now has branches in 11 locations around the world and grosses $200 million in annual revenue, according to a 2015 Bloomberg article.
Zuma specializes in izakaya-style Japanese food, a more informal style that involves serving dishes one after the other as soon as they are ready.
Though Zuma’s decor, which was done by Noriyoshi Muramatsu of Studio Glitt, is trendy, the atmosphere is friendly; everyone from the busboys to the sommeliers were cheerful and more-than-happy to explain the complex workings of each dish. And believe me, once you try some of the flavors and foods in this multi-course meal, you’re going to want to know all about them.
The meal begins as you would expect it to at a Japanese restaurant: with edamame. Sprinkled with sea salt, the edamame gave a sweet and fresh start to the meal.
As part of the second course, we were served uni toast on squid ink bread, which had a strong and powerful flavor that was couched in a creamy sauce.
These scallops, cooked in brown butter and sprinkled with sesames, were an absolute knockout; my dining companion noted that it was his favorite course of the night.
The sliced yellowtail tuna with green chili relish ponzu and pickled garlic hamachi was bright and refreshing, a nice compliment to the heavier dishes.
And the sushi, oh, the sushi did not disappoint! Served on an enormous clamshell filled with ice, the sushi selection included fresh bluefin tuna, golden eye snapper, oysters, salmon belly and fried shrimp heads. All made to be enjoyed with fresh wasabi.
The miso black cod was tangy and crisp, a nice variation on Nobu’s staple dish.
Almost at the end, we were given a green tea granita to cleanse our palate before we indulged in the amazing dessert plate, which included coconut custard, seasonal fruit and a dense chocolate cake. A sweet end, to a very sweet meal.
The premium omakase meal at Zuma costs $138 per person.