Sushi-grade fish is a much-used term, but the buzzwords sustainable sushi are slowly reeling in food lovers who are hooked on making ocean-friendly choices, so they don’t open a can of worms with overfished varieties (ok, we will stop with the puns).
Regrettably, few sushi restaurants across the U.S. focus on offering species that are not endangered from overfishing. Chisai Sushi Bar bucks the trend. Tucked off Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, its whitewashed interior, filled with plants and pale wood, feels like a diner car gone Japanese modern. The space’s small footprint is in step with the menu’s ethos. The restaurant is devoted to serving only sustainable sushi, with all of its fish sourced from the notable eco-friendly suppliers Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., a partner of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and Sea to Table, which makes the journey from ocean to dining room a short one by linking fishermen and chefs directly.
While this is intrinsic to the restaurant’s philosophy, it’s the dishes themselves that bring diners back, with its whimsical twists on tradition passed nonchalantly across the bar. Where else have you seen black edamame with Japanese sea salt ($3), a braised tofu bun with jalapeno relish that tastes like some of the best barbecue outside of Texas ($5) or a spicy line-caught albacore tuna roll with almonds ($7)?
One diner was overheard declaring the spicy crab roll ($13), its edges ever-so charred, wrapped in delicate soy paper and served with radish sprouts, one of the best things he’d ever eaten. The sushi chefs, in their camouflage caps, looked quietly proud. The chirashi bowl ($16) is just as epic, with a rainbow-array of chef’s choice sashimi, well-seasoned rice, avocado and a soy-pickled egg.
Don’t expect the friendliness to translate into spilled secrets. Asked why the smoked dogfish somehow tastes like pâté, the sushi chef gave a delighted, demure grin. Chisai’s charms are as sly as they are unassuming.