Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Meaning beautiful summer in Japanese, Natsumi Tapas, located in Gramercy, is a true find. No, it is not a Japanese/Spanish fusion, but rather a Japanese/Italian fusion restaurant. It is just that people understand what tapas means better: small plates. Great concept in this modern Japanese kitchen, result of the collaboration between Barbara Matsumura and Chef Haru Konagaya, formerly from Haru.
The place is fairly big with two main areas: the bar area that is quite spacious, as well as the dining room that has different sections, including large tables for large parties or communal dining, as well as small booths where in fact we got seated. I appreciated there the noise level that was definitely reasonable despite some music in the background.
Food wise, we had an amazing dinner. I admit that I was more interested by the tapas side of the menu than by the fusion dishes. So, no pasta, tacos or flatbread, but rather small plates elegantly presented. We went for six tapas that seems to be the number for two people, although, depending on the choice made, it may vary. But six is a good benchmark. What I appreciated with the service is that they did not bring all of the dishes at the same time like a lot of restaurants do, making sometimes the experience uncomfortable, plates being all over the table and not leaving us any space. No, at Natsumi Tapas, they bring the dishes gradually, allowing the diners to enjoy their meal, comfortably, without any pressure to eat their meal quickly. For sure, when seeing the size of the servings, there is always the fear that not enough was ordered, but I recommend that you finish eating your order and decide at the end if you need more, knowing that you absolutely need to keep some space in your stomach for dessert (one of the desserts we tried was amazing). To go with my meal, I decided to try one of their cocktails. I chose the Whiskey Hunny, made with Redemption rye, yuzu honey and yuzu.
I liked the mix of whiskey with the sweetness of the honey that kind of counteracts the acidity of the yuzu. Quite refreshing for sure.
Then, our first dish arrived. It was a fairly classic Japanese dish: miso black cod. It came with bonito flakes on top that were dancing on the plate, as if they were alive. Writing this post, I wish I had taken a video so you could see. This was a great dish: the fish was perfectly cooked, flakey and moist, dipped in a delicious sauce with sesame seeds for added nuttiness.
Then, our nose got filled with a nice truffle scent: it is because they were bringing to the table a filet mignon tataki, thin slices of meat in a ponzu truffle sauce. The meat was too rare for Jodi, so I ate most of it: I am not going to complain considering that it was a sublime dish. The meat was tender and, with the ponzu sauce looked like an interpretation of a carpaccio, although the slices of meat were thicker than they would if indeed it was a carpaccio.
Next was a request from Jodi: edamame dumplings.
I admit that I was not sure if I would like it as I had bad veggie dumplings in the past, from a filling that I did not like to a doughey thick shell. But this was not the case at Natsumi Tapas: the shell was not thick and the filling delicious, with pieces of edamame to give some texture.
After that was another kind of dumplings: the king crab tom yum. Now, this sauce was hot, but strangely, although my mouth was on fire, I kept going back to it (I loved the taste of the lemongrass in it). The dumpling was also very good and I think that the combination of these dumplings with this fantastic spicy sauce was on point.
Another classic dish we got at Natsumi Tapas was the vegetable tempura. There were various veggies such as eggplant or sweet potato, but the best one was the onion. The tempura were delicious: crisp and not greasy.
The last dish, probably my least favorite, was the Japanese fried chicken. Don't get me wrong: it was good, but I guess that with all the different fried chicken I have tried, I was expecting more.
We finished our meal with two desserts, both fried. The first one was fairly common: banana Spring roll. It as very good: crispy and not greasy, with a well ripe banana. I should mention that it came with a chocolate sauce that was great with it.
But it was the second dessert was the most amazing and surprising one: tempura cheesecake with a raspberry coulis. What? tempura cheesecake? Well, it was probably the first time I saw such item on a menu and did not regret ordering it. To even emphasize more how good it was, know that Jodi does not like cheesecake; but it was her favorite dessert! We always say that anything fried is good and this is no exception: the batter was good, slightly crispy, but the inside was even better, sort of melted a bit. A great dessert that is worth trying.
We left full from Natsumi Tapas and glad we got a chance to try this place. It is definitely not your typical Japanese restaurant and I love their small plate concept. Next time I go back, it will probably to try their Japanese-Italian fusion dishes...
Enjoy (I did)!
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