Serious deliciousness is bursting out at Lan, a Japanese restaurant that’s gotten little hound attention. This East Village spot recently introduced eight-course tasting menus, a chef’s version and a sushi version. E Eto says both are inventive, well conceived, and a relative bargain at $58 and $68, respectively.
A rich, complex dish that comes midway through one of the set dinners is a good illustration of Chef Takanori Akiyama’s take on modern Japanese food. A wedge of foie gras, infused with miso then grilled, is poised atop a layer of ground, miso-seasoned duck. Both are served over a round of daikon, simmered in the traditional way with dashi, soy, and mirin. “It worked well,” E Eto reckons, though he allows that some will find it too busy. “The miso marinade gave the foie gras a pleasantly sour finish, and the duck paste provided a sweet element to go with the sweet daikon.”
Another highlight of the chef’s menu is Kobe beef, gently simmered shabu-shabu style, then arrayed in a salad of baby arugula and other greens with sesame dressing. Duck pâté, flavored with miso, gets a lift from sansho pepper, whose citrus note plays nicely off the earthiness of the liver. A comforting chawan mushi (steamed egg custard) is put over the top by foie gras and duck scallion sauce. At times, the chef seems to be trying too hard: Miso-marinated broiled black cod, a Japanese standard, sits in white miso foam that really isn’t needed, though it does add sweetness and miso intensity.
Japanese expats know Lan as a meat specialist—Akiyama put in a stint on the grill before being elevated to executive chef—but it also comes up with first-rate seafood. The sushi tasting menu includes a sashimi course, which on E Eto’s visit comprised excellent o-toro from Spain, botan-ebi (large sweet prawn), and snapperlike ma-dai. Later in this dinner comes assorted nigiri sushi, which might include relative rarities like ma-saba (Japanese mackerel) and Hokkaido bafun-uni (a variety of sea urchin). In between, there’s a sunomono course; E Eto enjoyed a refreshing rendition made with zuwaigani (snow crab) sashimi, with cucumber and jellied vinegar.
Both tasting menus wind down with tart, sweet yuzu sorbet, followed by a soufflélike molten chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, decent but disappointingly pedestrian. Finally: matcha-flavored French-style macaroons, thick with green tea flavor yet without the bitterness, “a great finale to a very good meal.”
Lan [East Village]
56 Third Avenue (between E. 10th and 11th streets), Manhattan
Board Link: New Tasting Menus at Lan