Food - A night at Himitsu
Secrets from within Umi's luxe lounge
I've been pondering the words to Madonna's mid-'90s hit "Secret" lately. To hear the song, just go to Himitsu's — the luxe cocktail/sushi lounge opened by the team behind Umi — website. "Secret" is on autoplay there, which of course is everyone's favorite time to hear a song ... when they're searching for restaurant information. The good news is you can listen to the whole song, and then listen again, and again, ad infinitum. All the better to let the words soak in: "Happiness lies in your own hand/It took me much too long to understand/How it could be/Until you shared your secret with me/Something's coming over me."
Himitsu's vibe is not exactly mid-'90s synth-ballad, so I'm assuming Umi proprietors Farshid Arshid, Charlie Hendon, and chef Fuyuhiko Ito chose "Secret" because, well, the word "himitsu" is Japanese for secret.
Himitsu's façade is hidden behind a fake G-Star RAW storefront and the only way to get in the door is by sending an email that hopefully meets the secret standards of the Himitsu reservation masters. They may ask who referred you. They may simply say, yes. Or, no. You never know.
I guess my wife got lucky when I emailed Himitsu requesting a reservation, since I soon heard back in the affirmative. I think it was because I mentioned I was a Madonna fan. When Himitsu confirms your reservation, they inform you that you'll receive another email with a secret passcode on the day of your appointment, to be entered into a keypad next to an unmarked black door. Apparently Himitsu regulars are able to use a retina recognition camera so they don't have to press the secret numbers. It's all very Zoolander meets James Bond.
When the night arrived, my wife and I got gussied up, drove our entirely un-feng-shui Buick Enclave to the Umi valet stand, and prayed that the Himitsu masters didn't have a camera surveying what type of car diners arrive in. We walked by Umi — packed to capacity with sushi lovers — and located Himitsu's unmarked door nearby. The secret passcode worked, and we arrived into a reception room roughly the width and darkness of an XXL-size coffin. A hostess was stationed there, and I wondered if she also turned to Madonna to find happiness while standing in her coffin for hours at a time. In any case, she ushered us in to the quiet luxury of Himitsu, and secrets were soon revealed.
Secret #1: Himitsu's cocktail bar is the main draw, offering drinks that incorporate Japanese spirits (like Nikka whiskey or junmai sake) or flavors (like yuzu, plum vinegar, or kokuto brown sugar). The whiskey-based $21 Kemuri cocktail, notable for its use of torched cinnamon and clove smoke lending long-lingering depth, is worth the splurge. Truffle fans should seek out the $18 Toryufu with white truffle and pear vodka. After a quick truffle punch to the nose, the cocktail settles in to a mellow harmony of rich pear and grapefruit.
Secret #2: There is a large assortment of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon on the shelf. It is for display only. Not for sale. The rest of the spirits and wine are, as far as I could tell, available for purchase.
Secret #3: If you're here just for the food, go to Umi instead. Himitsu's menu is mostly a succinct subset of Umi's — 11 options, from $6 edamame to $50 caviar. Himitsu provides the same stellar caliber of sashimi and sushi as Umi, like a sashimi platter including some of the most luscious and flavorful tuna and salmon I have ever had. As is the case at Umi, ordering dessert — especially the impossibly creamy mille crepe — should be mandatory. Also like Umi, the tab here rises quickly. Our meal for two with one cocktail each hit $150 in the blink of an eye.
Secret #4: Himitsu does not serve tap water. You must pay for a bottle of Italian Acqua Armani or Solé Mineral Water. There is free use, however, of the fancy Japanese toilets in the restrooms. If you're desperately thirsty and/or broke, you can fill up your water from the restroom sink. This was my wife's idea. I promise.
Secret #5: If you crave serenity, Himitsu offers plenty. We were the only table in the restaurant at 8 p.m. on a Thursday. Roughly 10 other souls joined us before we left. The music on that night was quiet, rather somber jazz. A bit of chatter from the tiny kitchen, however, broke the calm on several occasions.
As I think back to Madonna, I keep reflecting on the notion that "happiness lies in your own hand." If you're eager to submit to secret passcodes and premium Italian acqua, you'll likely be very content lounging over sushi and cocktails at Himitsu. There's fine Baccarat glassware and uber-luxe décor from British designer Tom Dixon to enhance your experience. But for me, visiting Himitsu was a happy reminder that my hand is more Buick Enclave than fancy crystal.