First Look: Double Knot

A few weeks ago, Michael Schulson opened the doors of Double Knot in what was once a gay porn theater smack in the middle of Midtown Village. Though the entrance is still a little understated, a diminutive sign hanging next to a windowless wooden door, expect to see many more people going, and coming (get it?), at the address in the weeks ahead.

Because beyond that door, adjacent to the dining room at Sampan, Double Knot is an earthy chic coffee bar and downstairs, a restaurant. Aproned baristas pull shots of espresso in a room painted muted hues, the entrance filled with curios that look as though they were collected by some eclectic traveler. Enjoy a simple lunch of bahn mi or noodles adorned with your choice of protein at a handful of tables. Or, once the hour grows later, make your way through the door at the back of the room, down a dark set of stairs, and into the belly of Double Knot itself. Something about the experience feels like descending into the belly of a ship, only to be greeted by tuna belly once you emerge into the moody dining room.

You’ll see the sushi bar first, its bright lights a modern shock compared to the weathered metallics and shadowy hues of the rest of the room. They illuminate jewel colored slabs of fish—an entire tuna broken down into its component parts to feed weekend diners—and various other cuts awaiting preparation by Chef Kevin Yanaga, formerly of Schulson’s Izakaya at the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Settle in to a table and prepare to be overwhelmed. The menu, which includes abundant flourishes in addition to the cornerstones of the sushi counter and the robotayaki grill, will make your head spin with indecision. You can’t go wrong by beginning with albacore tuna atop a slurry of sweet onion ponzu, or tiles of hamachi loin with a bracing relish of shallot and ginger, each topped, respectively, with the finest tuft of julienned radish and fried garlic chips. These fish are so fresh, sliced with a knife so sharp, that their surfaces are practically reflective, as important a textural component as any of the flavors on the plate. Even a crunchy salad, threads of heart of palm with radish and scallion, alive with an almost spicy yuzu dressing, displays this technical knife work.

From there, you could keep things cool by staying with Yanaga’s sushi offerings, most of which take a classic approach of one fish plus one flourish, whether scallop with yuzu ponzu, or Japanese mackerel with soy and ginger. Expect the maki to include beautifully executed versions of combinations you’ve seen before like eel with avocado and yellowtail with scallion. What you haven’t seen is the Double Knot, a tempura maki wrapped in green soy paper and topped with neat squares of big eye tuna and smashed avocado.

For something warmer, and perfect for feeding a group, tackle the robotayaki offerings (and the cocktail menu). For a few dollars each, you’ll be delivered a skewer or two of whatever you order from the selection of vegetables, seafood, and an impressive array of meat that includes pork jowl and chicken gizzards next to the turkey meatballs and kobe beef. These arrive hot off the grill, brushed with seasoned sauces while cooking, so all that remains for you to do is wolf them down, stashing the empty skewers in the vase provided on each table.

Beyond the sushi, the cold dishes, and the grill, however, there’s still a full menu of meat and fish dishes, small plates, and sides: bacon yakisoba, Sampan’s beloved edamame dumplings, crispy tofu with miso caramel, and brussels sprouts with shishito peppers and fish sauce. Heavy-hitting entrees include a roasted whole fish with ponzu and scallion, a beef short rib that serves 2, and sea bass lacquered in truffled soy-which sounds terrible but is actually delicious—and sweet peas.

Enjoy yourself on your first visit to this new addition. I’m sure you’ll want to come again soon.

Double Knot [f8b8z]