The New Ingredient in Astoria’s Kitchen? by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
The dish might have seemed more at home on the menu at J.J.’s fusion Kitchen and Sushi Bar on 31st ave. A little more than a year ago JJ and Richard Lin transformed JJ’s Grand Tofu, the take-out noodle shop they had ran for six years, into JJ’s Fusion Kitchen and Sushi Bar. The new room is cozy, with mustard-yellow walls and bamboo scrims between tables, and the only evidence of its previous incarnartion is a phone that rings often and loudly. On a recent night a table of older Japanese customers shared an enormous tureen of noodloe soup and the whole red snapper steamed with ginger and scallions. Younger tables ordered from the extensive menu of maki, or designed their own, which the Lins encourage. We gravitated toward their more electric house combinations, like the terrific, buttery hamachi with a fiery, yuzu kosho-spiked oil and sliced fresh jalapeno chilies, and a plate of raw tuna slices, interleaved with paper-thin half-moons of tart green apple, drizzled with a light wasabi-scented cream. Ms. Lin, 34, grew up in Shangai and moved to New York City in 1987. Her father-in-law owned a Shanghainese restaurant in Manhattan in the early 80’s and later taught himself to cook Japanese food. Ms. Lin attended the French Culinary Institute abd confessed that her ambition is to be nothing less but the Nobu of Astoria. and although her sauce-heavy dishes lack some of the sublety of Nobu Matsuhisa’s, her prices – about $40 for a carafe of sake and four dishes- are the epitome of restraint.
With many new Manhattanites taking up residence in Astoria, they are finding JJ’s comfort zone for Asia fusion food that one might only find at some of the more noted Asia restaurants in the Bif Apple. Chef JJ Lin brings brings to life the talent of her Asian culinary background, the techniques learned at the French Culinary Institue and her experience working at Lutece and Az restaurants which have since closed. New items pop up on the menu regularly as she stands at her canvas with spatula, pots and a long line of ingredients at hand, resulting in artistic presentations, with unique sauces that are a feast for both the eyes and the palate. Appetizers such as Edamame Pot Stickers with a wasabi cream sauce have just the right kick for those looking for a little of the hot stuff and the King Crab Dumplings wich are steamed with a layer of bamboo leaf which imparts even more flavor are served with a spicy sesame soy dipping sauce. The Chef’s special lobster roll is prepared with chunks of lobster meat wrapped in seaweed, sushi rice and then topped with sushi tuna, finished off with a mound of tempura flakes and caviar and served with one of the chef’s special sauces and ingredients of which are kept under wraps. JJ’s festive culinary delights are carried through to an eye catching tuna sashimi standing between thinly slices apples which are laid upon a lime soy sauce with wasabi mayo and basil oil. For those who are watching their weight, JJ’s offers brown rice. For the whole Asian experience sip on a hot or cold sake to end your dinner with one of JJ’s desserts such as the Asian Yucca and Coconut Pudding which is really a cake that is super moist, dense but not overly sweet.
Dish Du Jour Magazine.
JJ’s Grand Tofu, a tiny Japanese fusion outpost on an emerging avenue in Astoria, offers an edamame pot sticker that’s sophisticated but not stuffy. The pot stickers ($5.95 for four) come simply steamed, sauced with squiggles of reduced cream and glaucous slick of wasabi oil, the bracing rush of the latter cutting through the former’s richness. And if your edamame exposure has been limited to squeezing the peas singly, like rosary beads, from salted pods, you may be surprised at what a meaty puree they yield. Leave it to the outer boroughs to prove that fusion needn’t be froufrou.