31 3rd Avenue, Boerum Hill
It’s tough to imagine a time when our vague understanding of sushi centered on faux crab California rolls. Nowadays, not only do middling fish-slingers seemingly outnumber pizza parlors, but sushi has also made its mark on the fine dining world, with elite French restaurants standing shoulder to shoulder with Michelin-starred temples of toro. The breathless veneration of solemn “masters” who famously dedicate a lifetime to the perfection of their craft has undoubtedly laid the groundwork for our enduring obsession with sushi chefs as well. Because, at its most refined levels, nigiri-eating is far from convivial group sport, but instead, a ceremonial, wordless pas de deux between artist and patron: designed to leave us supplicant with our chopsticks, intent on properly appreciating that painstakingly carved morsel of mackerel, lounging on a meticulously molded tablet of rice.
Which means, at spots like Brooklyn’s recently opened Sushi Ganso, all distractions have been stripped away, leaving an austere shrine-as-counter where the aforementioned master—in this case, Tomo Hayashi, of Matsuri and Sushi Azabu—holds court. Having trained in Tokyo, Hayashi favors the classic, stark Edomae style, consisting of little more than bite-sized tidbits of vinegared, room-temperature rice, crowned with a single variety of neta (seafood toppings). So no cream cheese-cloaked “American Dream” or deep-fried “Spiderman” rolls here — instead, you’ll find streamlined nori packets of spicy Japanese scallop or salted plum and shiso, or by-the-piece offerings of nigirizushi, showcasing sweet shrimp, yellowtail or squid. Of the slim roster of kobachi (small bowls), the most unusual find is ankimo—i.e., monkfish liver—and you should by all means order it. Punched up with crescents of pickled cucumber and brackish tissues of wakame, the rose-beige rounds have a custardy mouthfeel and buttery flavor, like foie gras of the sea.
As long as you’re cool with relinquishing autonomy, selecting omakase (chef’s choice) is generally the best way to test the mettle of a master, who is bound to cherry pick the best bits, from opaque rectangles of fatty tuna to silvery slips of freshwater eel and silken lobes of uni. Although now that we all fancy ourselves experts (and with dishes this abridged) it’s hard not to quibble at the details, such as just-under seasoned rice, hairline cracks in the nori, or the collapse of a clumsily constructed pouch of ikura, which scatters oily buckshot of salmon roe across the plate. Oh well, we’re still an awfully long way from California rolls.