Shinsei got a lot of attention while chef de cuisine Casey Thompson was in the running for top toque on Bravo’s Top Chef. Well, even though she didn’t win—the show is long over—and T.J. Lengnick is now in the kitchen, Shinsei is still a chic and sexy Park Cities hot spot, thank you very much, serving a solid assortment of sushi and Asian fusion specialties to its well-heeled neighbors. A recent dinner revealed that the food and service still hit the mark. We kept it light, ordering spring rolls and sushi, knowing sushi chef Shuji “Elvis” Sugawara would do us right. And that he did. Big eye tuna, albacore tuna, unagi, yellowtail—each was more unctuous than the last, cut long and lean and clinging tightly to the rice. Simplicity ruled in the spicy tuna roll, which was fat with fish and held just enough wasabi to make our sinuses tingle. As with most dishes at Shinsei, even the humble spring roll—this night, stuffed with snow crab, asparagus, fresh mint, and glass noodles—is so much better than it has to be, thanks to a trio of unforgettable dipping sauces: honey chile, orange mayo, and peanut. Also noteworthy: my martini-drinking companion declared his dirty Grey Goose martini the best he’d ever had. The secret? Manager Steve Spence, who stepped behind the bar when the bartender got called away. When we asked him how he did it, he credited just a swirl of vermouth and an easy hand with the olive juice. I’m not sure what will draw us back—the yellowtail or that martini. It’s a tossup.
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