By B.A. Nilsson
Art Japanese Cuisine
2025 State St., Schenectady,
388-8600. Serving Tue-Thu 11-10, Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun noon-10.
AE, V, MC.
Cuisine: Sushi, standard Japanese fare, tableside
Entrée price range: $9.75 (tempura) to $25
(surf and turf)
Ambience: Spacious, handsomely appointed
Clientele: Seekers of elegance
Sushi Art hides in plain sight on that no-man’s-land stretch
of Route 5 just east of Schenectady but west of the Mohawk
Mall. Formerly Marmarino’s Restaurant, it has a spacious,
comfortably furnished dining room, a small sushi bar, a separate
room for a bar of the drinking variety, and even a massive
pair of banquet rooms. And that doesn’t count the area where
the buffet tables sit.
In the main dining room, you’ll sit at one of the black lacquered
tables. If you’re craving meat, take one of the 12 barbecue
tables that line the wall. This isn’t the hibachi style, however,
in which a tableside chef juggles spatulas while preparing
a meal. Skillet-sized downdraft burners are disguised as part
of the tabletop until a cover is removed, and then a quiet,
intense flame is ignited. Your meat and vegetables are then
cooked quickly over the inset brazier.
It’s the first such restaurant in the area, although the style
has been catching on throughout the country. But don’t let
this obscure the excellent sushi you’ll find here. Given so
many choices of seating, it’ll take at least three visits
to appreciate the breadth of the offerings.
Manager Clare Cheng is also responsible for the interior design,
which takes advantage of the generous amount of space, and
includes walls appointed with a spare, evocative outdoor look—with
a miniature winterscape along the sides. Beside the sushi
bar is a series of tall glassed-in displays of dried fruits
Behind that, silhouetted in gloom, are buffet serving tables.
“We were going to add a buffet,” Cheng explained, “but now
we’re not so sure. We’re waiting.” I suspect she’s too diplomatic
to observe that buffet service changes the character of a
restaurant. It’s a customer draw, true, but I’m hoping that
Sushi Art can hold out and build a customer base on what’s
now being offered.
Generous $9 lunch specials include spring rolls, salad, an
entrée of teriyaki (chicken, beef or fish), tonkatsu (a
fried pork preparation) or tempura (among others); the sushi
bar also offers lunch specials, and you’d do well to check
out the selection of noodle soups.
Dinner items are also available all day, so you can avail
yourself of the barbecue offerings. Again, it’s a more-than-complete
meal for a single price, ranging from $11 for chicken breast
to $25 for a surf-and-turf combo.
Begin with a bowl of miso soup, that splendid restorative
derived from a seaweed stock, here enhanced with tofu and
scallions. A forgettable salad follows, although the dressing,
spiced with ginger, plays nicely on the palate.
Your server whisks off the table’s grill cover to reveal the
brass of the cooking surface, around which plays a soft blue
flame. Then the meat platter arrives, itself a handsome display
of raw ingredients that includes onions, peppers, corn and
broccoli. Part of the art is to distribute the items so that
they reach a finish at about the same time—but the beauty
of doing your own cooking is that you can adjust the finish.
Not that you have to cook it yourself. A server will do it
for you—in fact, we found that they’re inclined to do so unless
you insist otherwise, always making sure the food is cooked
to your liking.
A plate of fresh lettuce gives you wrap vehicles. It’s a technique
I’ve seen in Korean restaurants: With a lettuce leaf in hand,
build a filling of rice, meat, onion and pepper and enhance
it with one or more of the three sauces provided. Tuck in
the far end, roll and enjoy. The sauces, in addition to a
small teapot of soy, are lemon, sweet-and-sour and a soy-black-bean
Sticky rice decorated with black sesame seeds, and a small
serving of spicy kimchi set off the flavors in different
directions, giving a more-than-sufficient meal that finishes
lightly with an orange slice.
Even I achieve a sufficiency of meat from time to time, however,
and I was pleased to see the nice sushi and sashimi service—especially
the latter, which the chef decorates with cellophane noodles
and carved vegetables. An appetizer sampler ($8.75) included
tuna, salmon and mackerel, seven pieces distributed across
a glossy platter.
Sushi and sashimi entrées run $12.50 to $22, with a non-raw
dinner as one of the options. Pieces are available individually
for an average of $2 apiece, and a long list of rolls ($3.50
to $10.50) includes every possible combination of fish and
There’s much else. Tempura is a specialty, priced from $10
to $16 as entrées with miso soup; the airy batter gives the
component ingredient, be it fish or meat or vegetable, an
extra and entirely wonderful crunch.
Teriyaki-seasoned meat, seafood or vegetable entrées are priced
from $10 to $14.50; noodle soups are $7.50 to $13; donburi
(a deep-fried technique) averages $11.
Much as the physical environment is elegant and refined, so
too is the food preparation and presentation. Time slows during
a good Japanese meal, so dinner here is a small vacation in
yourself awake with food and music when the Schenectady
Symphony Orchestra presents its fourth annual
Classical Breakfast from 9:30 to 11:30
AM Sunday, July 20, at Schenectady’s Central Park
Pavilion. Music will be provided by performers
from the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra, including
the Women of Note string quartet (Barbara Brothers
and Elaine Gervais on violin, Meme Pittman on
viola and Cathie Jo Brun on cello) with guest
Thomas Gerbino on clarinet. The breakfast is sponsored
by Schenectady VanCurler Music, with food donated
by Sodexho Marriott, Dunkin’ Donuts, and area
businesses. The continental breakfast includes
pastries, bagels and muffins, fruit, and beverages.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children under
13. For reservations, call the SSO office at 372-2500.
. . . Finish your day with food and music when
Nicole’s Bistro at the Quackenbush House (Clinton
Avenue and Broadway, Albany) presents its sixth
annual Cucina Sinatra at 6 PM Wednesday (June
4), featuring the menu Ol’ Blue Eyes himself most
enjoyed when he dined at Jilly’s Restaurant. You’ll
toast the singer with a round of Jack Daniel’s
(and hors d’oeuvres), then enjoy littleneck clams,
rigatoni arrabiatta and veal scaloppine
alla Milaniase among other courses, all paired
with appropriate wine and spirits. Meanwhile,
feast the ears on Sinatra’s favorite songs, performed
by Ed Clifford. This is usually a sellout, so
reserve seats—they’re $100 per person—by calling
465-1111. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to
fax info to 922-7090)
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