Written by Hulda Lawrence
Joseph, 1240 Avenue of the Americas at 49th Street. (212) 332-1515; FAX (212) 331-1590. In August of 2001, Rockefeller Center became the site of the restaurant with a well known New York name. Joseph expanded its horizons even further than its two large markets featuring seafood and fish on Broadway and Third Avenue to create a great place for enjoying the freshest of creatures of the sea. Creative construction and reconstruction have transformed what had been a not too prepossessing bar into a light, airy, well-designed (by the Rockwell Group) restaurant. The décor continues the mood of the sea with fragments of seashells and occasional portholes where the sea around us can be glimpsed. The ground floor bar is just an introduction to what lies above. The main dining room encompasses two floors with an emphasis on space and light. Above the two floors is a fourth floor kept for private events.
On the day we lunched at Joseph, the dining room was crowded with business people and many a deal may have been consummated between courses. We began with a Kir for me and a Negroni for my companion. From the extensive menu we selected two appetizers: Poached Lobster with Endive, Avocado Salad; and Crisp Basil Shrimp Rolls with Kaffir Lime, Cucumber and Melon. Both dishes were exceptional in their contrast of texture and taste. Other appetizers at lunch include a five piece variety of Sushi, Tomato Sorbet with Heirloom Tomato Bread Salad and Basil Oil, and Wild Hamachi Sashimi with Scallions, Radish and Ginger. Of course, a selection of oysters and clams on the half shell is always available.
Our entrees were Sauteed Sea Trout with a Mussel, White Bean Ragout and Crisp Grey Sole with Peeky Toe Crab and Fingerling Potato Ragout. Both choices were fine examples of the skill of Chef Brian Young. With them, on the advice of wine director Michael Cooperman, we had glasses of Principessa Gavi and Gruner Veltliner which enhanced the food. Other luncheon entrees include Ginger Chive Baked Halibut with Cumin Lentil Stew; Seared Tuna au Poivre with a Bacon Red Sauce; Sauteed Skate in a Sage Lemon Capellini Broth and a non-seafood dish, Lamb Chop with Quince, Chestnut and Pomegranates. Although our wines were by the glass, Joseph offers about 200 bottles from all over the world.
Appetizers at lunch range from $9 for salad to $16 for the Shrimp Rolls, and entrees from $21 for Sauteed Skate to $28 for the 12-piece Sushi Variety. Dinner appetizers vary from $12 for Tomato Sorbet to $18 for Sauteed Oysters with Sea Urchin. Dinner entrees range from $25 for Oil Poached Salmon to $34 for Sauteed Lobster. Steak is $37. Desserts range from $9 to $12.
Could we handle dessert? We certainly could and were delighted that we did. Baked Pavlova Meringue with Blackberries and Mangoes was one sample and then there was Apple "Conversation" with Granny Smith Apple Chips and Hazelnut Ice Cream. We just had to taste the Jasmine Chocolate Organza Leaves with Milk Chocolate Sorbet and Mint Ice as another of pastry chef William Yosses' delicious productions.
Dinner appetizers include Shaved Geoduck Clam with Asparagus, Chive and Hot Pepper Oil; Sauteed Oysters with Sea Urchin, Fennel and Caviar Remoulade; and Melting Potato Crab Cake with Saffron Crab Broth as well as sushi and soup. Dinner entrees might be layered Turbot, Oxtail and Melted Potatoes with Red Wine Sauce; Oil Poached Salmon with Foie Gras, Celery and Blackberry Jus; Tempura Tuna with Soy, Wild Mushrooms and Watercress; Pink Snapper with Cauliflower Puree and White Truffle Oil sauce; Sauteed Lobster with Matsutake Mushroom Broth; Pompano grilled on the bone with Lemon, Soy and Toasted Rice; Seared Scallops with Brussels Sprouts, Yam and Pomegranate. For those who prefer, Prime Aged Sirloin with Mashed Yukon Golds is always on the menu.
There are special dinners such as the Asian Tasting Menu for $75 and a Surf and Turf Tasting Menu at $95. With those "Specials," amuse-bouches precede dinner.
General Manager Oliver Rohmann keeps the service and atmosphere relaxed and warm. There is a special sushi chef, Kazuhide Hashimoto, and a tremendous variety of sushi, sashimi as well as sushi desserts.
Joe Gurrera not only is the owner of the Citarella empire, but also is a man of vision. The seafood and fish are fantastically fresh as they always have been in the retail establishments which now present meat, vegetables and everything else.
On the main floor there is a regular bar and a separate sushi bar, where only cash is accepted.
Hours: Lunch: Monday thru Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Tucked up on 52nd Street right next to the famous "21" is the restaurant Soba Nippon, 19 West 52nd Street, (212) 489-2525, where those who appreciate the healthy and delicious soba noodles can order them in many forms. Because a suitable place could not be found in North America for the proper growing of buckwheat, the main ingredient in these noodles, a farm was bought near Montreal, Canada. Here the buckwheat is sown, harvested, and mixed with 20% udon wheat to became soba noodles. Made fresh daily, these noodles are full of amino acids as well as vitamins B and E. They help prevent high blood pressure and cerebral hemorrhage and are excellent for controlling weight and keeping people slim.
Soba Nippon is open both daytime and evening with the same menu available. At luncheon there are "Specials" featuring noodles accompanied by salads. The soba noodles are served hot or cold with a variety of additions such as chicken, duck, fried tofu, Tempura shrimp or vegetables. The noodle dishes are priced from $8 for plain noodles with dipping sauce to $17 for noodles with two jumbo shrimp.
Each evening the chef provides a Kobachi menu of 22 separate and unique dishes. Diners select as many or as few of these choices, ranging in price from $3.80 for many, such as Eggplant Amiyaki and Hijiki, seaweed simmered in special stock, to Filet Garlic Steak at $14.
Main dishes such as Chicken Salmon or Pork Teriyaki can be ordered as well as such favorites as Miso Soup, Oyado-don (chicken, vegetable and egg cooked over rice), and Beef Negimayaki (sliced rib eye rolled with scallions and broiled with teriyaki sauce.
At luncheon we began with one of the six Sakes which can be ordered either warm or cold at $7. All are described as having a "dry, light, clean, clear, smooth and pure" flavor. We sipped our Sake happily as we looked over Mini-don, New Soft Salmon described as "lightly sea salted, smoked at Inverness, Northern Scotland to the Nippon specifications." From the sushi bar we chose California Roll, Tuna, Yellow Tail, and Sea Urchin. Sushi ranges from $2 for Crab Stick to $27 for a Sushi Sashimi Combination. Adding to the enjoyment of our "first course" was the best sliced ginger ever, which Soba Nippon provides as an accompaniment to whatever plate of seafood and fish is presented.
We decided after this rather filling appetizer we would have our soba noodles in a salad. Our Beef Soba Salad was an imposing dish that looked like an artist's still life, with its combination of deliciously tender slices of beef in a superb sauce, several kinds of seaweed, lettuce, carrot and sesame all built into a handsome whole. The flavor of the noodles was enhanced by an excellent dressing. Soba noodle salads can be ordered with chicken or seasoned tofu and are $13 to $17 for the beef version. There also are salads which are not done with soba noodles. A fresh green Hyotan Salad is $4.50 and there is a seaweed or chicken or Scottish Salmon Salad from $4.50 to $11.
With our Soba Salad we enjoyed glasses of Sancerre wine, a very nice accompaniment. There is a lengthy list of wines all available by the glass from $5 for a Chardonnay to $10 for Haut-Medoc. Should you want a glass of Pol Roger champagne (according to the menu, the favorite Champagne of Sir Winston Churchill), it is $11.
Of course, hot tea was served throughout our leisurely luncheon and we were truly relaxed as we decided to have Green tea and red bean ice cream for dessert. Fresh papaya and fresh pineapple are also available.
Hours: Lunch: Monday thru Saturday. Noon to 3p.m.
Note: No check room. Coats are hung on an open rack near the door.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.