Ozu: Food for the Soul
Disclaimer: I gravitate away from restaurant reviews for a number of reasons. First of all, that’s what Yelp is for. My opinion is my own, and who am I to be criticizing the work of people with much more cooking experience than me? Secondly, to be frank, “restaurant food” no longer interests me as much as it used to. Amuse-bouches, foam and truffle oil… who cares at this point? Food is first and foremost nourishment, meant to satisfy both body and mind. The overall eating experience is equally important: even if what you’re eating is delicious, it can easily be ruined by a bad atmosphere.
However, there are those hidden nooks that are worth writing about: soothing, magical places where the food is flavorful and you feel calm. When you leave you feel satisfied, like “this is what food was meant to do.”
Ozu on the Upper West Side is one of these places. Macrobiotic cuisine may sound bland—and sometimes it is—but it is precisely this blandness that allows you to taste. The Macro Plate, a perfect geometrical design of brown rice, beans, seaweed, tofu, and root vegetables, is exactly what it sounds like. At Ozu, you order what your body craves and they bring it to you. The restaurant is minimally decorated, and mug after mug of steaming barley tea is brought to you, free of charge. Fish (choice of salmon, wild salmon or sea bass), the only animal product on the menu, is seared in a sesame ginger sauce, slightly crispy on the outside but tender in the middle. The rice is chewy, nutty—just as brown rice should be. The kale is garlicky, complimented perfectly by carrot dressing. Steamed root vegetables: sweet potato, kabocha, and carrot, are a triple dosage of beta carotene, sweet and nourishing.
I could eat this food for every meal and not get sick of it. Maybe it seems crazy to eat food that seems this austere—but really, this is comfort. It’s calming.
I’ll have some more barley tea, please.