Lunch Hours:
Monday - Friday
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Dinner Hours:
Monday - Thursday
5PM - 10PM
Friday & Saturday
5PM - 11PM
Sunday
5PM - 9:30PM

 

Restaurants We Love
Murasaki, Nyack

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By Liz Johnson
ewjohnson@lohud.com
Summer 2014

It’s tempting to draw comparisons between Murasaki and Wasabi, Nyack’s two outstanding sushi restaurants. But don’t. They both serve sushi. The similarities end there.

Murasaki is classic. Clean lines, blond wood. Simple presentation. Wasabi is trendy. Hip cocktails. Mood lighting. Flourishes. Each has its place, but at Wasabi, people go as much for who’s at the party as what’s on the plate. At Murasaki, the plate is the party.

Masao “Umi” Umezaki, the sushi chef and owner of Murasaki, holds court behind the sushi bar, expertly slicing fish, meat, vegetables, even perfectly ripe and sweet pineapples and honeydew melons (for dessert). Every morsel is cut with care; every dish is garnished with precision.

The restaurant is outfitted with sunken tatami tables in the two front windows, several blond wood tables in the dining room and a varnished two-tiered sushi bar along one wall. In a nod to fine arts, paintings of scenes of Japanese villages hang just where your eye will catch them.

Your eye will be drawn to the plate, too. With spoonfuls of tobiko for color here, mounds of daikon radish there and leaves of shiso everywhere, each dish is presented with balance and beauty. And as soon as you taste a piece of fresh, raw tuna, salmon or yellowtail sashimi, you’ll realize they are beautifully handled; each bite melts on your tongue. If you prefer sushi, you won’t be disappointed with Umi’s rice, either: it’s seasoned just slightly with vinegar and wasabi.

I’ve found one of my favorite vegetarian dishes at Murasaki: an eggplant caramelized with mirin. Sliced in half lengthwise with the stem still on, it’s glazed with that mirin, along with honey, sake and miso, which gives the dish a beautiful dark color. You can scoop the flesh out with a spoon, and each bite tastes custardy, rich, and full of unami.

I also adore the ginger-scallion sauce that appeared with two of our dishes on a recent visit: squid tentacles (which had an al dente bite but were not chewy at all) and sardine sashimi (a wonderful, surprising light flavor and a meaty texture).
Umi is always trying out new dishes, and if the seared tuna steak special is on the board, order it. He slices coin-sized medallions thin, then sears them with a hand-held torch. He tops them with raw onion, sesame seeds, scallions, seaweed and garlic. You can’t help but murmur “mmmm.”

I prefer to sit at the sushi bar when dining at Murasaki, and so tend to stick with appetizers and raw fish. The gyoza and shu mai are not made in house, so skip those in favor of the excellent Harumaki, a homemade spring roll with pork, cabbage and ginger, fried crispy and light; or the negamaki, which is a yin-yang of soft, tender beef wrapped around crunchy, sharp-flavored scallions.

But diners who prefer dining at tables are not disappointed. Recently, we saw several families with children snap up the tatami tables, where the adults enjoyed teriyaki, tempura and udon noodles and the kids had bento boxes, which looked like a joy for a child to explore.

Murasaki Shikibu is the author of “The Tale of Genji,” an 11th century story considered classic Japanese literature. It also means purple wisteria blossom in Japanese, and it’s slang for soy sauce. If you’re the kind who likes to mix soy with wasabi for dunking a California roll, you certainly won’t go wrong at Murasaki. But if your tastes venture out a little further, you could be in for an epic adventure, just like the restaurant’s name would hint.

Picture Caption:
At Murasaki, let chef-owner Masao “Umi” Umezaki be your guide
and opt for his selection of expertly prepared sashimi and sushi.
(File photo by Mark Vergari/The Journal News)