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Cirella's at Saks Fifth Avenue

230 Walt Whitman Rd. Huntington Station, NY 631-350-1229

User rating:
3
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Type: Japanese, Restaurant, American, Asian, Sushi Special features: Lunch Price range: $$ (Moderate) Description:

Behind the sushi bar, a team of chefs carefully cuts raw fish. Overhead, a huge flat-screen TV depicts the Food Network's ever-cheerful Sara Moulton chopping onions. Your server presents two menus; one comprising Japanese selections, and another with categories such as "hot off the press" (panini) and "fashion plates" (entrees). Could the new Cirella's at Saks Fifth Avenue be more 21st century?

Still, for me, the place manages to evoke memories of department store restaurants long gone: lemon chiffon pie with my grandmother at the Charleston Garden at B. Altman & Co. in Manhattan, tuna salad sandwiches with my mom at the Priscilla Tea Room at A&S in downtown Brooklyn. Maybe those recollections are triggered by the line of shoppers waiting to be seated. Or the shopping bags under tables too close together.

Or it could be the requisite tuna salad sandwich. Cirella's bridges the gap between past and present with a sensational version, made with low-fat mayo and served on toasted cranberry-walnut bread. The chicken salad sandwich with pesto mayonnaise and roasted red pepper is another standout.

I'm sold on the sushi, having sampled everything from a fiery spiced tuna roll to the colorful rainbow roll to the crunchy spider (fried soft-shell crab) roll. A sashimi combo was impeccably fresh, beautifully presented. Gyoza, Japanese vegetable dumplings, were delicious, miso soup unconventionally good.

Soups are a forte. One day, I enjoyed a vibrant version of split pea, dotted with bits of pancetta. French onion soup was robust beneath its molten cheese cap. And there was a piquant chicken tortilla soup that warmed me one chilly afternoon.

As an alternative to the hamburger, try the lively Southwest burger, made with ground chicken and topped with tomato, onion, Swiss cheese and chipotle-mango chutney. Accompanying French fries, though, were entirely forgettable. So was a grilled chicken panino marred by leathery, overcooked poultry.

An entree of rare-grilled tuna over steamed broccoli was good, although a surfeit of teriyaki sauce threatened to drown the fish. I had high hopes for the baked macaroni and cheese with bacon and seasoned bread crumbs, but it arrived lukewarm with way too much sauce and not enough pasta.

At almost every table, someone was eating a salad. A favorite was the Saks salad, mesclun with apples, dried cranberries, Gorgonzola and candied walnuts. Bypass the unremarkable Oriental chicken salad in favor of the fine rare pan-seared tuna over mesclun with tomato, onions and Gorgonzola.

If you're feeling indulgent, finish with a slice of warm maple walnut or apple pie dolloped with tart frozen yogurt (the superior Frogurt brand).

When I return, as I surely will, it probably will be with my mom. And my daughter. Tradition demands it.  --Joan Reminick (3/12/04)

Hours: Monday-Friday & Sunday: 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday: 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Reservations: Not Accepted Credit cards: Accepted
Alan Kim, Cirella's at Saks Fifth Avenue

Alan Kim, Cirella's at Saks Fifth Avenue

Behind the sushi bar, a team of chefs carefully cuts raw fish. Overhead, a huge flat-screen TV depicts the Food Network's ever-cheerful Sara Moulton chopping onions. Your server presents two menus; one comprising Japanese selections, and another with categories such as "hot off the press" (panini) and "fashion plates" (entrees). Could the new Cirella's at Saks Fifth Avenue be more 21st century? Still, for me, the place manages to evoke memories of department store restaurants long gone: lemon chiffon pie with my grandmother at the Charleston Garden at B. Altman & Co. in Manhattan, tuna salad sandwiches with my mom at the Priscilla Tea Room at A&S in downtown Brooklyn. Maybe those recollections are triggered by the line of shoppers waiting to be seated. Or the shopping bags under tables too close together. Or it could be the requisite tuna salad sandwich. Cirella's bridges the gap between past and present with a sensational version, made with low-fat mayo and served on toasted cranberry-walnut bread. The chicken salad sandwich with pesto mayonnaise and roasted red pepper is another standout. I'm sold on the sushi, having sampled everything from a fiery spiced tuna roll to the colorful rainbow roll to the crunchy spider (fried soft-shell crab) roll. A sashimi combo was impeccably fresh, beautifully presented. Gyoza, Japanese vegetable dumplings, were delicious, miso soup unconventionally good. Soups are a forte. One day, I enjoyed a vibrant version of split pea, dotted with bits of pancetta. French onion soup was robust beneath its molten cheese cap. And there was a piquant chicken tortilla soup that warmed me one chilly afternoon. As an alternative to the hamburger, try the lively Southwest burger, made with ground chicken and topped with tomato, onion, Swiss cheese and chipotle-mango chutney. Accompanying French fries, though, were entirely forgettable. So was a grilled chicken panino marred by leathery, overcooked poultry. An entree of rare-grilled tuna over steamed broccoli was good, although a surfeit of teriyaki sauce threatened to drown the fish. I had high hopes for the baked macaroni and cheese with bacon and seasoned bread crumbs, but it arrived lukewarm with way too much sauce and not enough pasta. At almost every table, someone was eating a salad. A favorite was the Saks salad, mesclun with apples, dried cranberries, Gorgonzola and candied walnuts. Bypass the unremarkable Oriental chicken salad in favor of the fine rare pan-seared tuna over mesclun with tomato, onions and Gorgonzola. If you're feeling indulgent, finish with a slice of warm maple walnut or apple pie dolloped with tart frozen yogurt (the superior Frogurt brand). When I return, as I surely will, it probably will be with my mom. And my daughter. Tradition demands it. --Joan Reminick (3/12/04) 

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Where

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Cirella's at Saks Fifth Avenue 230 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station

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