Q&A with Chef Mark Garcia
If New Yorkers had to build their own food pyramid it’s safe to say sushi would
be granted a significant portion of it. In the city, it’s a consistent go-to for everything from takeout, to power lunches, to swanky sake-fueled dinners downtown. So, it always seemed a little suspect that the restaurants out East seemed so limited for such a popular cuisine. Well, this summer that’s changed.
Earlier this summer, Executive Chef and Partner Mark Garcia is brought a premium sushi experience to the East End with Kissaki. The new Water Mill location will be the third for the brand, including Kissaki downtown at 319 Bowery and Nerai in Midtown East. Chef Garcia talked with Hamptons Monthly about the new Hamptons outpost, embracing his role as an “outsider” in the world of sushi making, and of course, leaves us with a few menu suggestions – even some for the novice sushi palate!
Welcome to your first summer in the Hamptons! With two locations in Manhattan, what inspired the outpost on the East End?
I decided to join this partnership because we wanted to build a brand, and we are just positioning ourselves in the right places. I think the Hamptons is a great location; in fact, I have regulars here that have eaten at my old restaurant in Astoria.
You began your journey in sushi-making with a decade-long mentorship with Chef Kaze Chan but have long considered yourself an “outsider” in the business. Now with several successful restaurant partnerships under your belt, how did you find yourself embracing that role of supposed outsider and ending up here?
I think I was labeled an outsider because I am not of Japanese descent or Asian. The day I realized I was, I embraced it! I said to myself, “I’m just going to do it my way,” and so far it’s been working.
When getting to talk with chefs we like to play what we call “The Perfect Pair.” We’ll present some scenarios and you tell us which dishes suit the situation. Let’s start with me, for example. I’m the furthest thing from a sushi eater. So what would you recommend I order to gently introduce me to the cuisine?
I have served first-timers, beginners, and advanced sushi eaters. With my guest at the sushi bar, I’m always able to adjust to your needs and likes. Also, the relationship I have with my guest is about trust. Once I’ve earned your trust then there’s nothing you won’t like on my menu. I have a regular who decided to bring her boyfriend to my sushi bar, and she warned me that he does not eat any of that and is not very adventurous. I said, “okay let’s get started halfway into it.” He couldn’t believe that he loved it all so far, so I took it up a notch and decided to give him a Japanese delicacy, “shirako,” which is “Milt cod”… It was a lightly poached brush with ponzu, shaved winter truffle, chives and sea salt… At first, when I presented it to him
I have to admit he was a bit fearful and jokingly I said it gives you manpower… Obviously his girlfriend knew what it was and she started giggling… So he ate it. I think he felt a little pressure since everybody at the bar was just looking at him waiting for him to eat it since everyone already had their piece. As we all waited with anticipation for the verdict, he smiled and said this is good. I felt relieved and jokingly said to the girlfriend it’s going to be a good night for you. We all started laughing. Come to find out three months later she is expecting!
Next in is a group looking to share several rolls to get a taste of everything. What’s the best way to go about this at Kissaki and what are you bringing them?
I think my sushi is accessible to all types of taste buds. As a group, I would order all the futomaki and a few pieces of nigiri.
Leave us with this: what are three things that will make your restaurant stand out from other spots offering sushi in the Hamptons?
I can honestly say I have some of the best products in the Hamptons hands down. We have our own direct line to Japan now, which is great for everyone.
670 Montauk Hwy. Suite E, Water Mill; 631.709.8855