The day after Frank Bruni's double-header review of Sushi Azabu (which our own Ed Levine wrote about) and Kanoyama, I began calling the latter on a daily basis. Not for a reservation though, I was after some of the fugu tempura that Bruni had talked up in an audio slideshow. For more than a week I called Kanoyama every day, only to be told each day that they didn't have fugu tempura. Then my luck changed, and I hastened down to the East Village to try the deadly blowfish. Kanoyama takes great pride in its presentation, and that basket had me thinking of some sort of Japanese Easter Bunny. Keeping the perfectly fried fish company were some green tea potato chips, thinly sliced radish and a bowl of green tea salt to sprinkle on the crunchy golden fugu.
I'm not sure whether Kanoyama's fugu contains any of the deadly tetrodotoxin, which causes asphyxiation and death when consumed. In any case, Kanoyama's fugu tempura is killer good. The tender, sweet pufferfish flesh is encased in a batter made from tiny spherical rice crackers. The only thing I felt when eating the stuff was a sense of gastronomic bliss. When I asked the waiter about it he told me, "Nobody ever asks about the poison, a lot of people order the tempura."
Since I survived eating the fugu, I celebrated with some sashimi. The big eye chu toro, or medium fatty tuna belly was quite good. Those white slabs of setouchi madai, or Japanese red snapper, were also tasty. The topping of dried seaweed made soy sauce unnecessary. Since I'd never had it before, I also got some torigai, or purple clam.
Fried ginnan, or Japanese ginkgo nuts, have a slightly funky, yet pleasant flavor. Plus they're good for the old noggin.
I rounded out the meal with a piece of akamutsu, or black throat sea perch sashimi. The sushi chef crisped up the skin with a torch just before serving it. I would have gotten some fugu sashimi, but Kanoyama didn't have any that day.
I am a big fan of hamachi kama, or broiled yellowtail collar, so I was tempted to order the buri kama, or wild Japanese yellowtail head. The price kept me away though, $60 seems absurdly expensive. The waiter did tell me that it's extremely rare and the portion is huge. If you're inclined to try Kanoyama's buri kama or fugu tempura, make sure to call in advance to check on the availability.