A Sea of Change
Once a culinary realm firmly ruled only by the masterly hand and keen-edged yanagi of the Japanese chef, sushi is nowadays gaining traction among international chefs, with New Orleans native Max Levy as one prime example. After a term in Japan, spent learning fish the hard way first as a tuna handler and then on an eel farm, he worked his way through New York sushi kitchens to become the only non-Japanese sushi chef at the venerable Sushi Yasuda. Today, Levy is in Beijing with a sterling reputation built on stints at Apothecary and Bei, so it’s hardly surprising that Okra, his sushi and cocktail bar in the trendy 1949 complex, is the city’s most hyped opening of the year.
The modest-but-satisfying set menu kicks off with seasonal appetisers like kampachi yellowtail with tofu skin and garlic oil, followed by sea urchin, botan prawn, and tuna shoulder sushi, red tofu smoked oyster soup, grilled uzakyu eel with cucumber, savoury custard prawn chawanmushi, and roasted ayu sweet fish as the main event. Despite his seafood focus, Levy also plates up 3-month aged Wagyu rib with an okra and sausage stew, smoked in Okra’s charcoal Josper oven. Zesty cocktails accompany – try the Trader Zhou Sour with whiskey and frothy egg whites, or the Pick-Me-Up shochu and tonic, finished with a sprig of rosemary. Kanpai!