Kawaii: Beef Negimaki – The Bite

Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Astute readers of The Bite will remember that I stated that “I don’t eat at sushi restaurants.” Well, this episode of The Bite will be the exception that proves the rule. Welcome to Kawaii Japanese Restaurant (2706 Avenue U), where I take on beef negimaki.

Beef negimaki – or grilled beef wrapped around blanched scallions and seasoned with a sweet Teriyaki sauce – is one of my go to meals in a Japanese restaurant.

Full disclosure here: I don’t eat sushi. I’ve tried it many times over the years but I just don’t like anything that includes seaweed. To me, sushi tastes like I’ve just fallen off my surf board, crashed into the water, banged my head and woken up laying face down on the sand with the surf filling my mouth with salt, sand and all the various unsavory elements found in sea water. It’s not appetizing.

Which leads me to avoiding most sushi or Japanese restaurants. But, when I do enter a sushi restaurant, I immediately seek refuge in the “kitchen entrees.” Or to put it more bluntly – the cooked items on the menu.

Kawaii’s negimaki ($11.95 for dinner, $8.95 lunch bento box,  or $6.95 lunch special) is one of the best versions I’ve had in many a year. The beef here is tender, flavorful and moist. The meat was an actual cut of beef, flank steak I believe, not the usual paper thin  and dry “steak-umm” cut favored by lesser restaurants.  The usual grill taste was missing, but that’s hardly a complaint when the meat was this flavorful.

The beef was wrapped around a good amount of  beautifully green, perfectly blanched scallions,  which were still crispy enough to provide a nice snap to offset the soft texture of the meat.  The ratio of the scallion to meat was nicely done, with neither flavor dominating but the onion flavor complimenting the slightly mineral taste of the beef.

The rolls of negimaki were served on a pool of a sweet Teriyaki sauce that balanced the dish well. Often Teriyaki sauce is overly sweet and thick, but that wasn’t the case here. I enjoyed this sauce so much that I was spooning leftover sauce over my rice.

The only complaint I have about this dish is the serving size. I ordered the lunch special which is served with soup, salad, soda & rice (hibachi fried rice or white rice.)  I got my meal with salad and a bowl of white rice.  Oddly, the waitress never offered any of us the choice of hibachi rice. I was served six pieces of beef negimaki which were beautifully presented but nowhere near enough to satiate my lunch cravings.

Overall, though, it was a well-prepared dish, and one of the best versions to be found locally.

Kawaii Japanese Restaurant, 2706 Avenue U, (718) 616-1238.

Kawaii Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon