WINE DINE AND FOOTLIGHTS
by Michelle Carol
|Amber was the first stop on my search for the best sushi on the Upper East Side|
I listened to Yelp and my uptown friend Alex —both swear the Upper East Side is bursting with great sushi restaurants.
Really? I’ll believe it when I eat it. Many of my work colleagues live in Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan. They say they have no reason to leave their corners of NYC if the reason is food (and that I should move to Greenpoint). Preposterous!
I’ve embarked on a quest to find the ultimate sushi restaurant in my new Upper East hood, one that is equivalent to TriBeCa’s gem, Takahachi. While fearing that I too will say there is no reason to leave my neighborhood for a great meal, I’m up for the challenge to find sushi that makes me feel complacent, full and inspired.
When I think of Takahachi, I can immediately taste the sesame peanut dressing covering the organic tofu, wakame and scallions on their Tofu Salad, followed by Passage to India’s tuna, creamy avocado, sweet mango, cilantro, and rich curry sauce. What also makes Takahachi such a treat is the attentive, smiling and knowledgeable wait staff.
|Takahachi’s Passage to India|
When sitting down, guests are handed hot towels, water glasses are refilled continuously, and the cocktails come out from the bar at record speed. It’s usually safe to assume that a family will be sitting close by. But the food is so heavenly that it’s hard to get annoyed with a few boisterous children and their toys.
Upon Alex’s suggestion, I tried Amber with my gal pal, Sasha. Alex, a friend for two years and a New Yorker for almost a decade, has never steered me in the wrong direction for food, beer or neighborhoods. (She helped me find my apartment on the Upper East Side.)
The restaurant, at 80th and Third Avenue, was half empty. Sasha and I ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio just minutes after happy hour ended. We might have gotten our drink orders in before the cut off time if we hadn’t sat down and ogled over the birch trees, pebble walls and plants surrounding us at our dimly lit table for two. Even though our waitress only said “You’re two minutes late to order happy hour drinks,” we each received a generous pour of wine. But, I missed the friendly connection that I’d felt instantly with the wait staff at Takahachi.
Amber seems like the perfect place for a first, second or hundredth date. It was also a relaxing yet vibrant ambiance for two friends to do some catching up after work on a rainy Monday in the fall. Unlike Takahachi’s windowless interior, Amber had mostly window seats and was successful in bringing inside natural elements with a trendy, modern twist. I think I may have seen the same birch tree barrier at Crate & Barrel.
Our first roll was the Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll Classic Roll, which was fairly unremarkable—definitely not of the fight-over-the-last-piece caliber.
Meanwhile, we simply had to photograph the bright colors of the Upper East Side rolls before we indulged. I knew even before I popped my first UES Special Roll (stuffed with lobster salad and avocado then topped with fresh kiwi slices and mango sauce) into my mouth and rolled back my eyes, that the rest, or my half, would be gone within minutes. And it was.
|The colorful Upper East Side Special Rolls at Amber|
Aside from the birch trees, this roll was the most memorable part of our night. Overall, Amber didn’t threaten my affinity for Takahachi, but I will go back. I’ll be sure to ask for a window seat, three Upper East Side special rolls, and a glass of wine before 7 p.m.
As for now, I’ll continue my journey throughout the Upper East Side for the ultimate sushi dinner. But I don’t mind — because I adore sushi.