Can two vegetarians find love at a sushi joint? Dr. Science and I headed to Astoria's Little Tokyo one recent Friday to find out.
OK, calling it Little Tokyo might be overstating the case. But there's a stretch of Broadway between Crescent and 30th Street that has no fewer than three Japanese restaurants and one Japanese grocery store (the fabulous Family Market). We decided to eat at Linn, as it seemed the least conventional of the choices.
Things at Linn are just a little odd. Take, for example, the strangely placed wall at the entrance, which prevents passersby from seeing inside. And then there's the live entertainment – a Japanese smooth-jazz duo with a cute female singer and a guy on electric keyboard. While this would be unspeakably cheesy at, say, an Applebee's, at Linn it somehow works. Call it the Lost in Translation effect: it feels just weird enough to be cool. Same goes for the black-and-white samurai movie that screened on the back of the strangely placed wall. Also odd, but less successful: the uncomfortable wire chairs.
As for the food, vegetarians can do well at Linn by making a meal of several small plates. Dr. Science and I started with the outstanding tofu sesame miso – two silky squares topped with a sweet, salty paste. I could easily have scarfed down several servings on my own.
|Tofu sesame miso|
We also shared the delightfully crisp and colorful seaweed salad, served with a white miso dressing on the side.
Linn offers a variety of vegetable rolls. Dr. Science and I both liked the oshinko (pickled yellow radish), which had an almost astonishing crunch. It was a split decision, however, on the ume shisoku (cucumber, plum paste and mint) – he enjoyed it; I thought it tasted like aftershave.
|Ume shisoku and oshinko rolls|
Perhaps appropriately, the sushi menu proper has just a couple of non-fish options. We opted for the shiitake mushroom, which tasted faintly of dirt and looked like... well, you be the judge.
We also split an order of zaru soba: cold buckwheat noodles served on what looked like a tiny bamboo badminton racket with wasabi, sliced scallions and a soy sauce-infused broth on the side. Eating it was a challenge – do you pour the broth over the noodles or dip the noodles in the broth? When do you mix in the wasabi? And how do you twirl the noodles on the chopsticks without flinging sauce all over the place? The flavors were great, though. (Sadly, I can offer no pictures of this dish, as they were deleted in a tragic iPhoto accident.)
Green tea flan, topped with fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream, tasted surprisingly light and capped off the meal nicely. With three refreshing Sapporo drafts, dinner came to $74 including tax and tip.
|Green tea flan|
While love is too strong a word, we certainly liked Linn enough to go out with it again. We'll just skip the mushrooms next time.