Sushi Ko

Rock shrimp tempura at Sushi Ko in Merrick

Rock shrimp tempura at Sushi Ko in Merrick (Credit: Joan Reminick)

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Chef James Wang of Sushi Ko in Merrick.

2063 Merrick Rd. Merrick, NY 11566

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Sushi Ko description A sleek, chic bi-level spot where owner James Wang, who worked for a tuna fishing ... More »

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The exterior of Sushi Ko restaurant in Merrick. Sushi Ko

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Surveying the truffle white tuna appetizer at Sushi Ko, it's hard to imagine that the fragrant oil won't overwhelm the delicate fish. The slices are artistically plated, strewn with tiny white dots that are actually miniature rice crackers. I pick a slice up with my chopsticks and slide it into my mouth. It's delectable. Voluptuous.

No question, chef-owner James Wang has respect for the sea's bounty; he used to work for a tuna fishing company run by Japanese sea captains. And while some of Wang's maki rolls may appear a bit ornate, they almost invariably come together well. A case in point is the unconventional but surprisingly good Veronica's roll, made with black rice -- reputed to have salubrious qualities -- as well as salmon, asparagus, avocado and scallops, one half topped with seaweed salad, the other with guacamole. Then, there's the rice-free golden egg roll, a paper-thin egg crepe enfolding spicy tuna, eel, avocado and asparagus. A single bite unleashes a harmonious confluence of flavors and textures.

There's heat in a hot white dragon roll -- escolar, jalapeño, seaweed salad with seared yellowtail and chili powder. Yet a simple salmon and avocado roll has as much allure, the fish and rice at optimal room temperature. At lunch, a generous salmon skin salad juxtaposes crisp salty shards of skin with fresh greens, seaweed salad, roe and tomatoes in a light yuzu-soy dressing.

A purist would have a hard time finding fault with the sushi deluxe platter -- except for the mundane presence of crabstick, or surimi. Among the pristine and well-cut fish showing up on the sashimi plate are two slices of fluke, each wrapped around cucumber matchsticks. So pretty, so light.

From the kitchen comes a first-rate appetizer of crisp roasted boneless duck with a lime-hoisin sauce. Yaki udon, a stir-fry of fat noodles, chicken and vegetables, is savory and appealing. Salmon teriyaki, the focal point of a bento box combination, is lacquered outside yet moist within.

You can finish with ice cream -- plain, fried or mochi -- or get fancy with crème brûlée. Or just sip some green tea and reflect on dining dollars well spent.

Long Island harbors a virtual sea of sushi chefs. So, how do you distinguish the best from the rest? Often, those who own their workplace have an added stake in making sure the fish they serve is impeccably fresh and cut with precision.

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