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270 Shrewsbury St., Worcester
By Bernie Whitmore
What happens when Japan slides headlong into Shrewsbury Street? Zipango happens. Although the scattering of woodcut prints and the kite-like bamboo structure hanging overhead alone aren’t quite enough to dispel the notion that you’ve stayed local, the spot-on Japanese cuisine is. And isn’t that what really counts?
On the weeknight a friend and I went to Zipango, it was so bitter cold outside that we requested a booth as far from the door as possible. Tables were set with white linen, starched napkins and gleaming silverware. Lisa, our waitress, arrived and got us started with greetings, menus, sushi order sheet and wine list.
Yeah… that ordering sheet. Still a sushi novice, I leave it to others or, better yet, sit at the bar and let the chef present whatever he recommends. Tonight we ordered black marlin sashimi, salmon sushi and California rolls. Splitting apart my chopsticks, I eagerly began the ritual of pouring soy sauce into my little dish, spearing a dab of wasabi and a portion of sashimi. The black marlin was a mild-tasting soft white fish.
The tuna sushi was more traditional. Impeccably fresh strips of fish glistened light red on a bed of rice; so tender our heroic tuna must have bruised at just the thought of trouble. Lisa advised us that Zipango’s fish is brought in fresh daily ~ there’s no other way to get the unblemished essence of the deep. If you love the ocean but the thought of raw makes you squeamish, grow up and just give sashimi another chance.
Our glasses of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc accented the delicate flavors of sushi and California Rolls.
Moving on, we took a break before the entrée course. I chose the sushi menu’s Seaweed Salad. A coiffure of emerald green strands was heaped in a martini glass with a dab of bright salmon red roe on top. High drama, exotic flavor and, I’m convinced, big-time nutrition. My friend was equally enthused with his Lobster Bisque, a bowl of creamy, velvety smooth soup garnished with a big chunk of lobster meat.
Zipango’s Grille menu offers main courses such as Half-Rack Lamb, Twin Filet and Surf & Turf. Prices range through the $20s. My friend’s 12 ounce New York Sirloin was served over asparagus and a mound of garlic mashed potatoes. Topped with curly fried onions, the steak was medium rare ~ just as ordered ~ and its delicious surface char gave way to flesh so tender the juices pooled around the garlic-mashed.
My Chilean Sea Bass was miso-marinated with a soft crust of panko crumbs. The snow-white flesh flaked apart and was served with jasmine rice stir-fry. Edamame & Mirin lent a bright green color and texture balance to the plate. Lisa had patiently explained that edamame & mirin are shelled soy beans with slightly-sweet rice wine.
We capped off our entrees with scoops of ginger and green-tea ice cream. Both were creamy and smooth, but ginger, with its spicy bits, was my favorite.
Lisa mentioned that there’s been some change at Zipango recently. The menu’s been improved ~ it now boasts antibiotic & hormone-free meats ~ plus some welcome changes to the décor are coming. We discovered a sophisticated menu and exciting flavors at Zipango. Whether you choose sushi or grille, so will you.
Photos by Bernard Whitmore