David Hockney’s photo collage of silhouetted people contemplating a stone garden is just one clue to the highfalutin' ambition of Sachiko’s On Clinton. Smart lighting, the deft moves of a too-handsome-for-his-own-good Eurasian waiter, and an omakase of seasonal favorites second the notion. A basket of irresistible deep-fried burdock curls and lotus-root thins is set between us, followed by luscious sesame-perfumed, panna-cotta-like tofu. Then the chef dangles four tiny crabs (sawagani), crisp-fried to crunch whole. Raw octopus takes a lot of chewing. Tuna tartare with grated mountain yam wears soy-sauce foam with little squares of wasabi gel. “What is this El Bulli stuff?” I mutter. “Yes, El Bulli,” owner Sachiko Konami says proudly, pouring Kakunko (“The Romanée-Conti of sake,” she says) into a champagne flute. She picks up a flowered spray bottle. “This is El Bulli, too. So people don’t drown the fish in soy. One spray is just enough.” The parade of sensuous sushi, each sliver of fish hiding a heady wasabi charge, provokes uninhibited ummms of shocked pleasure. The smokiness of a clear Kyoto soup with cherry-blossom leaf on sticky-rice cake is another near-religious experience. Chocolate semifreddo and a delicate crème brûlée restore reality. Our spring bacchanal costs $150 each, tip included, but omakase lifts off at $60.
25 Clinton St. nr. Stanton St. 212 253 2900