Casual anthropological research into the lives of New York’s population of 20-somethings has revealed that “Meet me for sushi and sake” may as well be a generational mantra. The phrase evokes all things chic and hip—the latest culinary craze, paired with a trendy atmosphere.
So, I had to bring fellow Dan’s writer Stephanie, a recent East End transplant well versed in the art of meeting for after-work sushi in the city, to test out Matsulin’s assertion that “you will experience the finest of New York dining in the Hamptons.”
Walk into Matsulin, and you’re greeted by aesthetically pleasing minimalist décor, the kind whose strategically placed dim lighting, mahogany columns and olive green walls evoke a New York hotspot without the dreaded stigma of “trying too hard” or—worse—any unwelcoming undertones.
While we enjoyed the atmosphere’s propensity to evoke long chats, girl talk is best served with delish food. A cursory glance at Matsulin’s extensive menu—with influences from Malaysia, China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam, all noted—indicated that we would have ample fuel for our conversation.
Vivian Ip, Matsulin proprietor, oversees the entire menu. The dishes reflect a combination of family favorites—many of the recipes have been passed down from relatives or added to the menu at a sibling’s request—using authentic Asian flavors and unique twists. (Take note, Irishmen, when selecting a restaurant after the hamlet’s Saturday St. Patrick’s Day celebration. You know you’re all corn-beef-and-cabbaged out.)
Our meal started with a smattering of Matsulin’s most popular appetizers—the crispy calamari (Vietnam), spicy spinach (Japan) and roti canali (Malaysia). At my request, the dishes were only moderately spicy, an accommodation indicating that Matsulin caters to even the most selective diner.
I enjoyed the simplicity of the pan-seared spicy spinach. The fresh leaves were infused with garlic and absorbed the spices nicely. It definitely had a kick, and I’d assume ordering straight off the menu must make for a very hot app. But that’s to be expected, considering chilis are involved.
Among the three, I most enjoyed the crispy calamari, which was lightly battered and tossed with scallion, diced pepper and spiced salt, served with a lemon. Each piece had a nice crunch, making it a perfect light snack to pair with some sake.
Like Matsulin’s food menu, the sake list is varied, with warm and cold options. We started the meal with Shirakabe Gura Jyunmai, which like many of the ingredients used to make the dishes, is imported from Asia. This sake comes by way of Japan and was paired with a few thin slices of cucumber. I couldn’t help but think ahead to summer evenings complemented with that cool, refreshing drink.
For those with a more Americanized palate, Matsulin also offers beer and wine. While I happily stayed “authentic” by indulging in the sake, I caved to Western ways and enjoyed my meal with a fork. Steff navigated her plate with chopsticks.
In round two, we tried coconut shrimp (Thailand), crispy basil spring rolls (Vietnam) and chicken satay (Malaysia). Though the three are a staple on many menus with Asian influences, Matsulin’s varieties separate themselves from the pack with a clear attention to detail in preparation and presentation. The coconut shrimp, for example, was covered in inch– (or possibly inches–) long shreds of coconut. Unique. Chic. Yum.
Then, it was onto a sampling of sushi, all of which contained a medley of flavors reminding me of the New York sushi scene. The surprise frontrunner of the selection was yellow tail salmon wrapped around a jalapeno. Cleared of its hot seeds, the jalapeno had a refreshing taste, which went well with the fish.
Liquid dessert was unfiltered sake, a nice palate-cleansing end to the meal. For food dessert, we tried the ice cream—red bean and vanilla—with fried bananas and “special chocolate syrup.” Divine.
Matsulin, 131 West Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays. 631-728-8838, matsulin.com.