By Fay Storrm
Longtime Brooklyn Heights restaurant-goers may remember an earlier incarnation of Nanatori Japanese Restaurant upstairs at 162 Montague St. If you haven’t visited this cozy, wood-paneled eatery recently, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Three years ago Jason Chen took over the restaurant and brought in an expertly trained sushi chef (named “Mike”). Since that day Nanatori has been delighting fans of Japanese cuisine with an extensive something-for-everyone menu, which includes classics like sushi, teriyaki, udon and tempura, along with fusion dishes and special rolls. Nanatori also offers affordable lunch box and dinner bento box specials.
With traditional Japanese décor and an attractive wooden sushi bar, Nanatori’s intimate front room is perfect for a date, lunch or dinner out with friends. A table by the front window provides a great vantage point for Montague Street people-watching. The less formal back section, with a huge aquarium and a flat-panel TV running closed captions, is a comfortable setting for larger parties and family groups.
On our last visit we started with a non-traditional choice, the lobster ravioli appetizer. These crispy, cookie-sized savories, drizzled with Japanese mayo and sprinkled with caviar, are a delicious way to start a meal, especially if you come with a group (they come four to the order).
We followed with the whole sliced Bar-B-Q squid glazed with shogayaki sauce (teriyaki sauce with minced ginger). This succulent dish convinced even the non-squid-eaters at the table to take more than one bite.
Our server recommended the Hawaii Salmon special roll: a sushi “cake” made with layers of rice, cooked eel, avocado and sparkling fresh salmon belly, topped with black caviar and zips of spicy mayo. This was a big hit with the sushi-lovers at the table. The cooked eel added a bit of crunch, and the tuna belly was a buttery-textured delight.
Our vegetarian diner ordered the tofu shogayaki — little bricks of lightly-breaded tofu — which was served with miso soup and a mixture of different-colored brown rices. Everyone enjoyed the tofu’s velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture and it disappeared quickly. The dish was served on a bed of delicately sliced, sautéed onions, which were delicious all by themselves.
Finally, we tried the special Nanatori roll, a combination of eel, salmon, crab stick, avocado, cucumber and kampyo (gourd), topped with caviar. Resembling a Futomaki roll on steroids, the Nanatori roll can be a whole meal for one but made a great-tasting dish for the group.
Eye-Popping Platters, Huge Menu
Jimmy Halim, cashier at Nanatori, said that customers’ favorite sushi dish is Sushi and Sashimi for Two, an eye-popping platter arranged with 10 pieces of sushi, 15 pieces of sashimi and 3 rolls. A smaller version, Sushi and Sashimi Combo, which includes sushi and sashimi plus a spicy tuna roll, is also a big seller.
Halim’s personal favorite, however, is the marinated and broiled black cod. “It’s special and different,” he told us. “It’s a little oily, but the oil comes from the fish. We serve it with traditional miso sauce - it’s so good.”
Other customer favorites include the special Hawaiian roll, the Valentina roll (shrimp tempura) and the Butterfly roll (spicy tuna).
While office workers dominate the dining rooms on weekdays, Nanatori attracts a neighborhood crowd at other times, Halim said. “We get lots of families on weekends,” he said, adding that parents often customize their own à la carte sushi platters filled with their kids’ favorite nibbles.
Before we left we decided to top off our meal with a little dessert: mango mochi, consisting of mango ice cream wrapped in a slightly chewy mochi (glutinous rice) skin topped with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup. The light, sweet nugget was just the right finish to a delicious Japanese dinner.
Wine and beer choices include a variety of whites and reds, plus Japanese beers, hot and cold sake, plum wine, special mixed drinks like the Banzai (sake and plum wine on the rocks) and the Nanatori Dream (sake, plum wine and cranberry juice). Japanese soft drinks are also served.
Nanatori Japanese Restaurant
162 Montague St. 2nd floor (between Henry and Clinton streets), Brooklyn Heights.
Master Card, Visa, American Express.
Hours: Lunch, Monday - Friday, 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Saturday, 1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner, Monday - Thursday, 4 - 10:30 p.m.; Friday: 4 - 11:30 p.m.; Saturday: 3 - 11:30 p.m.; Sunday: 1 - 10:30 p.m.
Lunch specials from $8.45 to $11.45.
Dinner bento box $17.95 - $18.95.
For more information call (718) 522-5555 or visit www.nanatori.com.