11/30/2012 01:55:00 PM

First Bite: Sen, A Sexy Hamptons Import, Brings Sushi to Flatiron

If you're a regular rider of The Jitney during the summer months, chances are you've wielded a pair of chopsticks at Sen, a Sag Harbor favorite that's always packed to the gills during the summer months. The owners of the Japanese hotspot opened an outpost in New York City a little more than a week ago, letting those of us who don't get to spend so much time in the Hamptons in for a taste. We dropped by the sleek, sexy spot for a nibble, and to see how the brand will fare in the increasingly busy Flatiron District. Pause, pour yourself some soy sauce, and dig into what we found:

The Space

If you're going to open a restaurant in this area of town, you better be prepared to fill a lot of seats. The storefronts in the old Flatiron storefronts are huge, and Sen is no exception. Like other popular Asian concepts around town (Buddakan, Tao), this eatery wants to entice revelers with vibe dining. The lighting throughout the space is dim, and the yellow glow of the large bar area in the middle of the room telegraphs that if you just want to have a cocktail in lighting that will flatter pretty much any complexion, that's A-ok with them.

There's also a sushi counter where you can watch the dishes being made as you nosh and a lounge space in the front. The size of the space provides ample elbow room, and you can actually hear the conversation at your table without having to shout. A member of our party joked that the tables were probably placed so far apart to allow access for the camera crews when the Real Housewives inevitably hit this spot.

The Menu

The extensive selection is a collaboration between executive chef Bryan Emperor and executive sushi Chef Hiro Sawatari who comes over from Niko, which was going for a similar hot-spot status. Everything is shareable, and the offerings are broken into six or so sections that make it easy to course things out.

Standards including edamame and and tuna tartare are served alongside more unique offerings like a Wagyu croquette with a foie gras center. Skewers of pork belly and chicken are grilled over a smoky charcoal and another Wagyu option is served over its own flame, letting you heat it to temperature at the table.

The Sushi

Of course, one of the focal points here is the fish, which gets its own menu section. There's a wide variety of sashimi and specialty rolls like the Golden Pacific Roll, a combo of scallop, uni and ikura.

The Drinks

The real story here is the sake - the by-the-glass offerings are made accessible with a special grid that visualizes each label's flavor profile, tracking them from "dry to sweet" and "light to full." A selection of cocktails is also on the docket - while a Lychee martini seems very Sex in the City-era NYC, the space makes it work. Oh, and if you haven't heard, the sweet chili sake is worth a trip of its own.

The Crowd

The joint has a built-in advantage, as it's clear that fans of the Hamptons location will stop by during the first few weeks to scope things out. The all-black-clad crowd was stylish, and we were sat next to a young girl and her father who were sampling the fare (a gossip girl in training, no doubt). If it's eye candy that you're after, the staff has more than enough going on in that department.

 The Details: 12 W 21st St.; make reservations here 


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