With our reservations confirmed, we arrived at SUGARCANE raw bar grill slightly early and headed to the interior bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. Elbow to elbow with what seemed like half of Midtown we were promptly served the Lemongrass: Zonin Prosecco cocktail with housemade thyme honey, fresh lemon and lemongrass infused rum and a custom Elderflower cocktail (off the menu). The beverages were both bright and refreshing, (with Prosecco, you really can’t go wrong) and the introduction of lemongrass and honey was an unexpected delight.
Shortly afterward, the iPhone rang (you are called when your table is available) and we were ushered to a bistro table adjacent the bar (reminiscent of ours- sans the signature candelabra & pink chairs). Our waiter presented us with menus and explained that the tapas style menu would be prepared in 3 separate kitchens: a robata grill, sushi station/raw bar, and typical kitchen, and thus all items would arrive when complete to ensure freshness. (Note: SUGARCANE supports local farmers and sustainability efforts. Always a plus when you can dine where local food was sourced.)
After reviewing the extensive menu we decided on the following: Tapas: Heirloom Tomatoes, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Goat Cheese Croquettes, and Kobe Beef Sliders. Robata Grill: Beef Short Ribs. Sushi Rolls: Crunchy Tuna.
The Heirloom Tomatoes arrived first with fresh burrata cheese, strawberries, mixed greens and pinenuts and were topped with a sweet balsamic. The crunch of the nuts and greens perfectly accented the smooth burrata and fresh tomatoes.
Next to the table: Goat Cheese Croquettes with membrillo marmalade. Not your typical cheese sticks, these lightly coated and fried orbs were much less dense and boasted a mild flavor, accented by the quince underneath.
The Crunchy Tuna Sushi Roll followed. This roll pairs rare tuna with avocado and spicy tempura flakes, sesame seeds and sweet chili jelly atop. Served with the requisite ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce on the side. The FOTF were torn with the sweet chili, one for, and one against. Being the pro-sweet chili (combines my love of heat & sweet) I gladly helped myself to more than half. Overall it was my favorite, but there was a close contention with the next plate…
The Kobe Beef Sliders were a close second for my affection. Presented on mini toasted brioche buns and adorned with a fried quail egg. Biting into these tall sliders was tricky, but when the yolk punctured and coated the premium beef with a rich salty glaze, all thoughts of propriety immediately left me as I focused on savoring every bite. (Note: I think it’s pretty much impossible to eat these without making at least a little mess, so focus on your plate, not your partner or date.)
Speaking of dates… A signature creation of Executive Chef, Timon Balloo, the Bacon Wrapped Dates were a must-try. SUGARCANE’s version were stuffed with manchego cheese and linguica (Portuguese sausage). Another hit for this restaurant with the sweet and savory combination, these dates did not disappoint. Around this time, overheard by a nearby diner “I love SUGARCANE. I bring all my dates here.”
The final plate of the evening, was the Beef Short Ribs done Korean style from the robata grill. All robata items are traditionally prepared over bincho-tan charcoal and these tend to take a little longer then the other tapas. The short ribs were absolutely worth the (brief) wait and carried a wonderfully smoky flavor.
For two average diners, 6 tapas may be just about the breaking point. We would have loved to have tried more, and will on a return visit, but do recommend all of the above. This FOTF girl’s top three were 1. Crunchy Tuna Sushi Roll 2. Kobe Beef Sliders 3. Heirloom Tomatoes. We also recommend calling ahead or going online for reservations.