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Tonga Room, San Francisco.

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At the bright, pleasantly trim Sushi Man—located, surprisingly, in a small shopping mall in New York's Westchester County—chef-owner Hideo Aoto crafts impeccable, glowingly fresh traditional sushi, including Osaka's famed battera zushi: marinated mackerel or grilled eel pressed in layers onto rice. For those with a taste for novelty, he creates such succulent innovations as fried-oyster sushi, or grilled eel and spicy tuna atop seaweed-wrapped rice, though he wisely frowns on travesties like inside-out California rolls. Among nonsushi selections: the ethereal usuzukuri, gossamer slices of fluke to dip in the citrus-soy sauce ponzu. Most extraordinary is the bara chirashi, or "loosely scattered" sushi: With lightning speed, Aoto minces confetti-like filaments and flecks of grilled eel, smoked salmon, crabmeat, egg custard, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, daikon sprouts, and mint leaf. Next he scatters these over the rice, along with thin pieces of tuna, squid, and shrimp, then tops it all off with salmon roe, sesame seeds, seaweed, and sweet eel sauce. The result is a lesson on the interaction of texture and flavor as all ingredients are tasted at once.

The flavors deepen if the covered box stays overnight in the refrigerator, as I discovered after taking a portion home. Some of Aoto's best creations are those that he prepares impromptu for steady customers whose taste he knows. Dinner, $100. At 724 Saw Mill River Rd., Ardsley, New York; 914-693-8800; fax 914-674-1019.

Restaurant prices reflect a three-course dinner for two, excluding beverages and gratuity.


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