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Robert LaValva Digs the Shochu at Umi No Ie

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New York City is home to a lot of restaurants, and among them are hidden gems some New Yorkers just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share with us their under the radar recommendations for Dining Confidential.

2012_1_ume.jpgRobert LaValva, the president and founder of the New Amsterdam Market reveals his love of the food and warm setting Umi No Ie in the East Village:

"Recently I have rediscovered Umi No Ie, which is not even a block away from where I live in the East Village. I had been there in the past, but mostly to sample from their extensive list of shochu, distilled from varied ingredients such as barley, sweet potatoes, rice, potatoes, brown sugar, or even sesame seeds. To me they taste of rock, or wood, or burning fields, the flavors are all unusual in that way. It’s great to sit at the bar and snack on a freshly made rice ball (try the one with cod roe) or chewy strips of dried manta-ray, dipped in Japanese mayonnaise - you get just a small dollop of it on the plate, which is all one really needs.

If you’re at the bar, you’ll begin to see why the restaurant name is subtitled “Japanese Home Cooking” - here they really mean it. Behind the bar is the kitchen, which is potentially even smaller than what you’ll find in a typical NYC apartment. And they use everyday pots and pans, on a stove like you might have at home. I’ve only seen one cook there, whose moves reminds me of a dancer. She never stops, filling one order after the next, occasionally lifting the lid off a pot and give a stir to the pork bellies, gently warming in their rich broth; this is definitely a dish to order.

I’ve tried and liked the udon (in agodashi fish broth, which is a main ingredient on Goto island, where the chef and staff are from); marinated eggplant; bok choi and mushrooms; eel omelet; cold tofu with bonito flakes; salmon fried rice; and a number of other dishes from the main menu or the daily specials. Everything is simple, well prepared, and unpretentious, just like you would want to make yourself. Sometimes customers will buy a bottle of champagne and share a glass with the cook, it’s as much a pleasure to watch her and the staff drinking and laughing as it is to eat their homestyle fare."
· Umi No Ie [Yelp]
Photo: Plate of the Day]


86 East 3rd St., New York, NY 10003