There are an abundance of Japanese restaurants in the city ranging in pricing, from low-grade cheap sushi that you regret the next day, to exceedingly expensive omakase meals that still leave you hungry. Fortunately, we have found our new happy spot at Natsumi Tapas, recently opened in Gramercy.
Natsumi Tapas differs from sister restaurant Natsumi in Midtown West, specializing in Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine spearheaded by Barbara Matsumura and Chef Haru Konagaya, formerly of Haru restaurants. This tapas joint combines many signature aspects from both Japanese and Italian cuisine, and puts their own unique flair with dynamic flavors. As the name suggests, the idea is that they are to be served tapas style so that patrons are able to share and taste more of their innovative dishes.
It is suggested to start off with some of their cold appetizers, combining fusion elements with seafood. Highly recommended is the Natsumi Carpaccio which comes in several varieties, including salmon with jalapeno in a spicy sesame soy vinaigrette sauce, or the white tuna with chili truffle vinaigrette. Another spicy dish to start with is the Spicy Sunomono, a rendition of a classic Japanese dish with shrimp, octopus, kani, and sashimi in a delicate sweet sake-konbu vinaigrette. I enjoyed the Filet Mignon Tataki with ponzu garlic truffle sauce. The meat was thinly sliced and fully absorbed the sauce it was marinating in.
For those who are indecisive, a great option is the Trio Zensai, since you get to try three fantastic options. One trio option consists of Japanese crispy chicken, spicy meatballs, and a crunch spicy salmon rolls. We went with the spicy rock shrimp tempura, beef short ribs with broccoli, and the spicy tuna roll. The variety was great to be able to try everything, but the spicy rock shrimp was exceptional.
Other signature tapas include the Japanese Squid prepared lightly fried and paired with a wasabi cream sauce; the Ciao Meatballs that come with assorted sauces including parmesan cheese, spicy teriyaki basil pesto, and spicy scallion marinara; and the Green Tea Ricotta Flatbread with arugula, tofu, oyster mushrooms, grapes, and truffle oil with a balsamic reduction.
Following the matcha craze, I was curious about the Green Tea Gnocchi, a dish that truly stemmed from the Japanese-Italian fusion concept. The gnocchi was infused with the green tea flavor in a creamy but light sauce on a bed of asparagus with capers. Another great choice for pasta lovers who want to try something new is the Grilled Shiitake Penne that comes in a truffle cream sauce, or the Shrimp Fettuccine in alfredo sauce with a hint of citrusy yuzu tobiko. For a more traditionally Japanese dish, I loved the Green Tea Soba. The green tea flavor was subtle but present in the delicate noodles, and the broth was light and soothing, with a side of vegetable tempura to dip.
For a more traditional dish we tried their Miso Black Cod with asparagus, which was tangy and tart. A more advanced dish to try would be the Natsumi Seared Salmon Toro Don with seared salmon marinated with smokey soy sauce, salmon caviar, and avocado over sushi rice, or the Natsumi Grilled Salmon with tomato sauce, olives, capers, scallions, and bok choy.
They have a huge array of unique rolls, which you will find yourself returning to try each one. I opted for the signature Lady Day Roll with tuna, salmon, pepperoncini, avocado, mango, and mixed with a bit of crunchiness for texture, a great variety of flavors in each bite. The crowd pleasers would be the Rainbow Sashimi Cucumber Roll with blue fin tuna, salmon, super white tuna, avocado, and jalapenos, and try your hand at the Sashimi Tacos that come with your choice of tuna, salmon, super white tuna or crab in an extra crispy house-fried tortilla shell.
After eating so much, I was ready to swear off dessert. Obviously that changed after I heard about their Tempura Cheesecake, and we had to give that a go. The blocks of cheesecake were caked in a layer of tempura batter, surrounded by tangy jam to complement the sweetness. The cheesecake itself was light, fluffy, and delicious.
To go with all of the food, we had to have cocktails to wash it all down. For a refreshing and light summer cocktail, I loved the Peach Amore with Tres Agaves Tequila, peach puree, and fresh lime juice. For a non-alcoholic drink, they have a deliciously tangy Passionfruit Limeade – which would also go well with a shot of liquor of your choice.
Other signature drinks include the Rising Sun-gria, a layered fusion of sparkling red wine with blackberry brandy, peach schnapps and fruit puree, garnished with lychee and served in a wine glass; Whiskey Hunny combining Japanese whiskey with yuzu honey and yuzu juice; New York Twist, a take on the Manhattan with the addition of ginger; and Kiss of Fire with jalapeno-infused vodka made in house, balanced with fruit juice and strawberry puree.
Natsumi Tapas also just announced the launch of their happy hour schedule, including a variety of food and drink specials! These happy hour specials are available from 4:30-6:30 at the bar and front dining areas. Enjoy small plates such as Crispy Blue Crab Dumplings ($5), Crunchy Spicy Salmon Roll ($4), and Blue Point Oysters (3 for $5). Their drink specials include $4.00 Budweiser and Kirin Ichiban beers, a selection of $6.00 wines by the glass, and a rotating selection of $8.00 “Drink of the Day” cocktail. Check them out today!
Photos by Socially Superlative
323 Third Avenue @ 24th Street
Hours of Operation:
Monday & Tuesday: 4:30pm – 11pm
Wednesday – Thursday: 4:30pm – 11:30pm
Friday – Saturday: 4:30pm – 12am
Sunday 4:30pm – 11pm
Lunch service: Monday through Friday, 11:30am – 3pm