“I like to add a twist, a touch of new, modern ingredients to make regular sushi become more fun,” explains Philip Chen, the executive chef of JJ’s Asian Fusion, as he personally delivers the appetizer to the table. “Sushi of such high quality and flavor doesn’t need any soy sauce.”
Chen went on to detail the “New Style” Sushi Sampler that includes Indonesian-style salmon with blow-torched lemon zest; yellowtail with jalapeno, Dijon, and yuzu zest; marinated and grilled bonito sprinkled with mint, black pepper and Himalayan rock salt; white tuna with deep-fried pearl onion and yuzu miso; and tuna topped with whipped tofu puree, yogurt and a drizzle of lime soy.
The rich and tender slice of yellowtail practically fell apart between my chopsticks. A fish with high oil content, it would be nearly futile to dip it in soy sauce. That would stubbornly bead up and roll off. So it’s brilliant that this piece of sushi is topped with fried jalapeno and spicy mustard to add texture and heat along with citrusy shavings of yuzu rind to cut the richness. Each piece is uniquely delicious and unlike anything being served even remotely nearby.
This cozy restaurant, unassumingly tucked away on 31st Avenue, features an often French culinary approach to a marriage of pan-Asian cuisines. Just beyond a neon blue glowing waterfall in the entry and bamboo-partitioned tables in the dining room, Chen enthusiastically creates an artistic array of dishes that satisfies both sushi purists and fusion enthusiasts.
The dumplings are made in-house. The most popular are the edamame pot stickers, which are $5.50 for a serving of four. The dumplings are stuffed with pureed edamame beans, blanketed in a wasabi cream sauce and drizzled with basil-infused olive oil.
With the shumai ($4.95), six tender meatballs of delicately seasoned minced chicken and crabmeat are wrapped in thin, savory noodles, steamed on a broad bamboo leaf that infuses a hint of sweet earthiness and served with a small bowl of ponzu sauce for dipping.
Try the rock lobster starter. These juicy lumps of sweet lobster meat are lightly tempura battered and fried, tossed in a yuzu mango glaze and dotted with red and black tobiko (flying fish caviar). Magenta and jade micro greens crown the creation.
Along with several basic sushi rolls, a kaleidoscopic array of chef’s special rolls is on the menu. Tropical roll #2 features shrimp tempura with diced mango and slivers of avocado. They are wrapped in rice and thin soy paper and drizzled with mango and strawberry sauces. The tempura batter and sweet glazes create a decadent harmony in your mouth.
For entrees, consider the tamarind-glazed roast duck over steamed baby bok choy or the miso-glazed salmon with stir-fried vegetables, accompanied by herbed mashed potato spring rolls with an orange glaze.
With at least five days notice, Chen will personally craft an omakase tasting at a fixed price point.
“We have certain things flown express from Japan,” he explained.
So whether it’s a $50 to $200 private tasting or just an afternoon of dumplings and green tea, JJ’s has something for everyone. Just be sure to end the meal with stacked green tea crepes. Even the sweet ending is flawless.
JJ’s Asian Fusion
37-05 31st Ave, Astoria
Open daily for lunch and dinner
-BY BRADLEY HAWKS
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