Sometimes a dish is so striking in its beauty and seeming simplicity that it evokes an emotional response before you even taste it. Such is the case with the kanpachi tartare at Bamboo Sushi (2715 17th Street). The carefully arranged row of diced fish, fruit segments, edible flowers and free-form rice crisps on a matte-finish oval platter could be a haiku waiting to be deciphered or the bars of a musical score that have yet to be played. Disrupting the pattern on the plate to scoop up a bite seems too hasty a move for the serene composition — but this is food, after all, and it's meant to be eaten.
Bright bursts of grape and orange mingle with the fresh kanpachi. Hints of lemon, chiles and herbs add subtle back notes, but the meatiness of the fish is still the focus of the dish. While there's certainly a lot going on, this dish is an exercise in restraint, and makes you wonder exactly how executive chef Jin Soo Yang manages to pack in so many disparate elements without overwhelming the delicate seafood. The trick is a few carefully selected ingredients — lemon-infused oil, a Japanese condiment called yuzu kosho, tiny leaves of fresh chervil — which each add a distinct element.
Kanpachi is a muscular fish with firm flesh, but the flavor itself is quite mild. Citrus generally balances the oiliness of fish, but too much can overwhelm, so Bamboo adds small pieces of orange for mild acidity and lemon oil to carry the flavor of the lemon zest without additional acidity. (Bamboo uses agrumato lemon oil, in which whole lemons and olives are crushed together to produce the oil.)
Yuzu kosho is a paste made from yuzu juice, salt and fermented chiles. The bold flavor of the paste should be added sparingly, but the result is a little mysterious and compelling when not overused. Bamboo turns the paste into a powder, but that might be a little ambitious for a home cook. Yang's team also fries black sesame rice crisps for the dish; if you can't find something similar, good rice crackers will work, augmented by a light sprinkle of black sesame seeds.
Here's a recipe from the Bamboo Sushi kitchen that you can pull off at home after a little shopping for the right ingredients. Yang recommends S & B yuzu kosho paste, which can be purchased online or at specialty markets.
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SHOW ME HOW
Kanpachi Tartare from Bamboo Sushi
"Make this appetizer to please any crowd, showcasing bright flavors of summer, perfectly fresh fish and a crunchy crisp," the restaurant says. "Making this for a larger group to snack on? Multiply the recipe as needed."
4 ounces Hawaiian kanpachi (Bamboo Sushi uses a sustainably raised kanpachi from Hawaii, but you can substitute any sushi-grade white fish that's higher in fat. You can also look for amberjack or yellowtail, other names for kanpachi and similar fish.)
8 red grapes
8 orange segments, peeled
2 teaspoons yuzu kosho
1 teaspoon lemon-infused oil (agrumato oil)
1 teaspoon fresh chervil leaves
Sea salt flakes for seasoning
A few edible flowers for garnish
Sesame rice crisps (or your favorite chip) for serving
1. Cut kanpachi and orange segments into 1/4 inch cubes and place in a small bowl.
2. Cut grapes into quarters and add to the kanpachi mixture.
3. Add lemon-infused oil, yuzu kosho, and flake salt to the bowl and toss to combine.
4. Place the tartare on a plate (or bowl for dipping) and top with edible flowers and chervil.
Serve with sesame rice crisps.