Maybe they need a change of pace, or just a break from the stove: hotshot chefs across the country are trying their hands at preparing sushi and sashimi. BOSTON Onetime pastry chef Kenneth Oringer has been flirting with Asian ingredients at his French restaurant, Clio. Now he experiments with Japanese needlefish and pico de rollo at Clio's spin-off sashimi bar, Uni (370A Commonwealth Ave.; 617/536-7200; dinner for two $90). Signature dish: Fish tacos with grilled halibut and avocado cream. NEW YORK Marcus Samuelsson tops gravlax with beet sorbet at his Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. Opening numbers at his new American-Japanese Riingo (Alex Hotel, 205 E. 45th St.; 212/867-4200; dinner for two $100) include orange-clam or Kobe-beef nigiri and potato maki. Signature dish: Toro with pickled daikon. • Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin's seafood master, designed the menu at Geisha (33 E. 61st St.; 212/813-1112; dinner for two $90). Here sushi chef Kazuo Yoshida slices yellowtail from New Zealand and freshwater eel from Japan. Signature dish: Tuna tartare roll with slices of black truffle. SAN FRANCISCO Laurent Gras says the sashimi menu at Fifth Floor (Hotel Palomar, 12 Fourth St.; 415/348-1555; dinner for two $130) is in tune with his new, lighter way of cooking. He flies in impeccable fluke and striped marlin from Japan and Hawaii. Signature dish: No sushi here, but Gras's toro with a dash of lime oil steals the show.
The French-inspired Japanese cuisine at Geisha, in the upper East Side, is at once complex and elegant, as is the ambiance. Dark maple wood walls are accented with tangerine-colored cherry blossoms, soft fabrics are artfully draped over chairs, and strands of silver beads (reminiscent of a geisha's headdress) glitter over the low-lying tables. Start your meal with a shrimp lollipop: coriander-marinated shrimp on a sugar cane skewer. Continue with the tuna truffle maki roll, diced akami with spicy mayonnaise and black truffle, or the toro belly topped with flakes of gold.
Situated in the lobby of the Alex Hotel in Midtown, Riingo is a fusion of Asian and American cuisine and decor. Red walls, like Japanese lacquer, give accent to the white floors and ebony wood tables and chairs. Locally admired co-owner and chef, Marcus Samuelsson, has moved into perfecting meat dishes, such as the beer-braised beef short ribs with apple-miso puree and palm hearts. Try the foie gras nori roll, served wtih grilled melon and cured mackerel. The signature entree is braised pork belly sliced into small squares and topped with honey and whole garlic bulbs.
Adjacent to sister restaurant Clio in Back Bay’s Eliot Hotel, this celebrated sashimi bar offers inventive Japanese fare from James Beard Award-winner Ken Oringer and acclaimed chef Chris Gould. The 21-seat dining room is adorned with plush gray chairs, round red candleholders, metal-framed mirrors, and a sleek marble bar where patrons can watch the chefs at work. In addition to an extensive sake list, the menu showcases fresh seafood from around the world and includes signatures like the Uni Spoon with quail egg, Osetra caviar, and chives. The sashimi platter and omakase (chef’s choice) tasting menu are popular, as well.